Successful Conservation of a Threatened Maculinea Butterfly

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK.
Science (Impact Factor: 33.61). 07/2009; 325(5936):80-3. DOI: 10.1126/science.1175726
Source: PubMed


Globally threatened butterflies have prompted research-based approaches to insect conservation. Here, we describe the reversal of the decline of Maculinea arion (Large Blue), a charismatic specialist whose larvae parasitize Myrmica ant societies. M. arion larvae were more specialized than had previously been recognized, being adapted to a single host-ant species that inhabits a narrow niche in grassland. Inconspicuous changes in grazing and vegetation structure caused host ants to be replaced by similar but unsuitable congeners, explaining the extinction of European Maculinea populations. Once this problem was identified, UK ecosystems were perturbed appropriately, validating models predicting the recovery and subsequent dynamics of the butterfly and ants at 78 sites. The successful identification and reversal of the problem provides a paradigm for other insect conservation projects.

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    • "There are relatively few scientific papers providing more detailed documentation of the fate of the various translocations and the factors affecting their success (Marttila et al., 1997; Hanski et al., 2004; Boggs et al., 2006; van Langevelde and Wynhoff, 2009; Porter and Ellis, 2011; Andersen et al., 2014). Perhaps the greatest success story among butterfly translocations has been the reintroduction of Maculinea (now Phengaris) arion in several places in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, which had resulted in >30 local populations by 2008, some of them very large (Thomas et al., 2009; Andersen et al., 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Translocations have been advocated as a conservation tool helping species adapt to climate and land-use change, but well-documented examples of invertebrates’ translocations are rare. The paper describes a successful translocation of the threatened Clouded Apollo butterfly (Parnassius mnemosyne) in Finland, compares this to a specific failed translocation, and presents conclusions for conservation planning as to factors contributing to the success. Two apparent key characteristics of the successful translocation were greater abundance of larval resources and less open landscape. The successful site was surrounded by forest, which strongly restricted emigration, crucially supporting the survival of the small initial population. Based on 20 mated females’ translocation in 2000, the local population increased slowly, reaching 600 butterflies in 2011. A large translocation patch together with host-plant abundance enabled successful establishment of the local population. Availability of other suitable grassland patches sufficiently nearby was an additional key characteristic, facilitating the Clouded Apollo’s expansion. However, the expansion rate was low; it took seven years for the butterflies to colonise the five nearest patches, only 10–200 m from the translocation patch. By 2013, they had colonised all suitable semi-natural grassland patches within 2 km from the translocation site and established a seemingly viable metapopulation with 11 subpopulations. The results point to the significance of local habitat area and landscape quality, along with conditions restricting emigration, in determination of suitable translocation sites.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Biological Conservation
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    • "Rotational mosaic mowing implies successive mowing of different meadow fragments (Morris and Rispin 1987; Saarinen and Jantunen 2005; Novák et al. 2007; Gaisler et al. 2011). This mowing method resembles traditional meadow management (Pöyry 2007), the abandonment of which has led to the decline of numerous meadow specialists, including the endangered Colias myrmidone (Esper, 1781) (Konvička et al. 2008a) or charismatic large blue butterflies of the genus Maculinea (=Phengaris), which are flagships of grassland conservation in Europe (Thomas et al. 2009). The future survival of the aforementioned species is dependent on the application Table 1 Positive effects of habitat management on European butterflies of conservation concern documented in the literature "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent land use changes, namely the intensification of agriculture and forestry as well as the abandonment of traditional grassland management methods, have resulted in the decline of butterfly diversity in Europe. Appropriate management of butterfly habitats is thus required in order to reverse this negative trend. The aim of our study was to review the available literary information concerning the effects of various types of management on European butterflies of conservation concern, and to provide practical recommendations for the management of butterfly habitats. Since vegetation succession is a major threat to butterfly populations, there is a need for activities to suppress this process. Extensive grazing and rotational mowing, which imitate the traditional way of meadow use, appear to be the most suitable management in this respect. Both grazing and mowing should optimally be of low intensity and follow a mosaic design, with different land fragments being successively used at different times. Habitat disturbance through trampling, either associated with grazing or various sporting activities (hiking, biking, horse riding), or through occasional small-area burning, also prove to be beneficial for many butterflies. In the case of woodland species, maintaining open habitats within forests (glades, clearings, wide road verges) and thinning forest stands is recommended. Among the unfavourable management activities identified, the most harmful are afforestation of open lands and drainage works. Therefore, such activities must be stopped at butterfly sites in order to ensure the effective conservation of species of conservation concern.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Journal of Insect Conservation
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    • "Inadequate understanding of the causes of these declines made the early conservation attempts of Phengaris species unsuccessful (Thomas et al., 2009). A strong population decline followed by the extinction of P. arion in England launched extensive studies of the species in Western Europe (Thomas et al., 1998, 2009). As a result, P. arion has become one of the most thoroughly studied butterflies (Thomas & Settele, 2004). "
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    ABSTRACT: Populations close to species distribution limits often differ in their habitat use from more central populations of the species distribution. Knowledge of species ecology derived from the latter may therefore not be sufficient to ensure successful conservation of peripheral populations.In this study, we examine habitat use of Phengaris (=Maculinea) arion (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae), an endangered myrmecophilous butterfly, in populations close to its northern distribution limit (in Estonia). A particular emphasis is given to its interactions with other species – host plant and host ant use, and, as a novel aspect, adult predation by dragonflies.Phengaris arion was found to be restricted to grassland patches with much higher host plant abundance than shown in other regions and predicted by habitat suitability models.All direct observations of the host ant use of P. arion were limited to the colonies of Myrmica lonae, an ant species which has nowhere else been demonstrated to be the primary host of this butterfly. Our data thus contribute to the emerging understanding that host ant use in P. arion can be geographically remarkably diverse.The results indicate that dragonfly predation on adult butterflies could be an essential driver of patch occupancy in P. arion. Our findings thus suggest that top-down influences, largely neglected in butterfly conservation, may actually need to be considered.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Insect Conservation and Diversity
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