A quantitative study of butterfly assemblages from different biotopes at the Langebaan Peninsula
Brummer, Phillip Daniël
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Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) comprises a fairly well-studied invertebrate taxon. The body of knowledge that has been acquired, especially on butterflies, allows for more convincing assessments of the significance of species distributions, for example assessments of rarity and endemism. In spite of their taxonomically well-known status, little is known about the different ranges and limiting factors controlling habitat specificity amongst species at a local scale. Aiming at ensuring more efficient and inclusive conservation planning for new developments and for rehabilitation of disturbed areas this study focused on the identification of species specific and local scale (biotopic) microhabitat attractants. This was done by identifying and classifying locally occurring butterflies in the context of small scale habitat preferences on a spatial and temporal scale taking into account correlations in distributions of butterflies, plants and bio-physical gradients. Results were compared to previous studies to evaluate the use of recorded species as bio-indicators. The methodology entailed the use of twelve 250m fixed belt transects that were sampled in alternating directions across four sites within the West Coast National Park. Seven sampling sessions were set out during four sampling months mainly during the summer of the 2006/07 season. Sampling was conducted through visual observations while walking transects at a constant pace. Distributional variation between species was observed within a relatively small area with limited apparent variation in vegetation, topography and altitude. Pronounced temporal variation and correlation between butterfly species distribution and microhabitats were observed although this is strongly linked to the scale of the study in relation to the species studied. Factors that will affect the choice of microhabitat across time include amongst others: the prevailing sex ratio, temperature and the presence of invasive ants. The influence of plant distribution in predicting butterfly species distribution seemed to be less important. Myrmecophilous butterflies could probably play some role in bio-indication although much more work needs to be done to confirm this. The identification of stepping stone sites with optimum microhabitats during the environmental assessment phase in areas with endangered butterfly species should determine the face of the development and not the other way around.
- ETD@PUK