Persistence of butterfly populations in fragmented habitats along urban density gradients: motility helps

In a simulation study of genotypes conducted over 100 generations for more than 1600 butterfly’s individuals, we evaluate how the increase of anthropogenic fragmentation and reduction of habitat size along urbanisation gradients (from 7% to 59% of impervious land cover) influences genetic diversity and population persistence in butterfly species. We show that in areas characterised by a high urbanisation rate (> 56% impervious land cover), a large decrease of both genetic diversity (loss of 60-80% of initial observed heterozygosity) and population size (loss of 70-90% of individuals) is observed over time. This is confirmed by empirical data available for the mobile butterfly species Pieris rapae in a sub-part of the study area. Comparing simulated data for P. rapae with its normal dispersal ability and with a reduced dispersal ability, we also show that a higher dispersal ability can be an advantage to survive in an urban or highly fragmented environment. The results obtained here suggest that it is of high importance to account for population persistence, and confirm that it is crucial to maintain habitat size and connectivity in the context of land-use planning.

Published in:
Heredity -London-, 119, 328-338
London, Nature Publishing Group

 Record created 2017-06-02, last modified 2019-06-04

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