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Determining Optimal Population Monitoring for Rare Butterflies

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Determining population viability of rare insects depends on precise, unbiased estimates of population size and other demographic parameters. We used data on the endangered St. Francis' satyr butterfly (Neonympha mitchellii francisci) to evaluate 2 approaches (mark–recapture and transect counts) for population analysis of rare butterflies. Mark–recapture analysis provided by far the greatest amount of demographic information, including estimates (and standard errors) of population size, detection, survival, and recruitment probabilities. Mark–recapture analysis can also be used to estimate dispersal and temporal variation in rates, although we did not do this here. Models of seasonal flight phenologies derived from transect counts (Insect Count Analyzer) provided an index of population size and estimates of survival and statistical uncertainty. Pollard–Yates population indices derived from transect counts did not provide estimates of demographic parameters. This index may be highly biased if detection and survival probabilities vary spatially and temporally. In terms of statistical performance, mark–recapture and Pollard–Yates indices were least variable. Mark–recapture estimates were less likely to fail than Insect Count Analyzer, but mark–recapture estimates became less precise as sampling intensity decreased. In general, count-based approaches are less costly and less likely to cause harm to rare insects than mark–recapture. The optimal monitoring approach must reconcile these trade-offs. Thus, mark–recapture should be favored when demographic estimates are needed, when financial resources enable frequent sampling, and when marking does not harm the insect populations. The optimal sampling strategy may use 2 sampling methods together in 1 overall sampling plan: limited mark–recapture sampling to estimate survival and detection probabilities and frequent but less expensive transect counts.
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Keywords: butterflies; conteos en transectos; distance sampling; endangered butterflies; especies amenazadas; especies raras; insects; marca-recaptura; mariposas; mariposas en peligro; markÔÇôrecapture; monitoreo de especies; muestreo de distancia; rare species; species monitoring; threatened species; transect counts

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Wildlife Studies, P.O. Box 1104, Arcata, CA 95518, U.S.A. 2: U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Redwood Sciences Laboratory, 1700 Bayview Drive, Arcata, CA 95521, U.S.A. 3: Biomath Program, North Carolina State University, P.O. Box 8203, Raleigh, NC 27695-8203, U.S.A. 4: Department of Zoology, North Carolina State University, P.O. Box 7617, Raleigh, NC 27695-7617, U.S.A.

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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