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Asymmetric dispersal and survival indicate population sources for grassland butterflies in agricultural landscapes

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We tested the hypothesis that populations in small habitat fragments remaining in agricultural landscapes are maintained by repeated immigration, using three grassland butterflies (Aphantopus hyperantus, Coenonympha pamphilus and Maniola jurtina). Transect counts in 12 matched sets of semi-natural pastures, and linear habitat elements proximate and isolated from the pastures showed that population densities of M. jurtina and C. pamphilus were significantly higher in pastures and in linear habitats adjacent to these than in isolated linear elements. A mark-recapture study in a 2×2 km landscape indicated that individuals of all three species are able to reach even the isolated linear elements situated at least 1 km from the grasslands. For two of the species, A. hyperantus and C. pamphilus, analysis of the mark-recapture data revealed higher daily local survival rates in the semi-natural pastures and more individuals dispersing from pastures to linear habitat elements. The proportion of old compared to young individuals of C. pamphilus and M. jurtina were significantly higher in linear elements than in semi-natural pastures, which suggests that butterflies emerging in pastures subsequently dispersed to the linear elements. In combination, these results suggest that semi-natural pastures act as population sources, from which adult butterflies disperse to surrounding linear elements. Hence, preservation of the remaining fragments of semi-natural grassland is necessary to keep the present butterfly abundance in the surrounding agricultural landscape.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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