A.J. van Strien
C.A.M. van Swaay
- Metapopulation dynamics in the butterfly Hipparchia semele changed decades before occupancy declined in The Netherlands
- Ecological Applications
- Volume | Issue number
- 21 | 7
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
The survival of many species in human-dominated, fragmented landscapes depends on metapopulation dynamics, i.e., on a dynamic equilibrium of extinctions and colonizations in patches of suitable habitat. To understand and predict distributional changes, knowledge of these dynamics can be essential, and for this, metapopulation studies are preferably based on long-time-series data from many sites. Alas, such data are very scarce. An alternative is to use opportunistic data (i.e., collected without applying standardized field methods), but these data suffer from large variations in field methods and search intensity between sites and years. Dynamic site-occupancy models offer a general approach to adjust for variable survey effort. These models extend classical metapopulation models to account for imperfect detection of species and yield estimates of the probabilities of occupancy, colonization, and survival of species at sites. By accounting for detection, they fully correct for among-year variability in search effort.
As an illustration, we fitted a dynamic site-occupancy model to 60 years of presence-absence data (more precisely, detection-nondetection) of the heathland butterfly Hipparchia semele in The Netherlands. Detection records were obtained from a database containing volunteer-based data from 1950-2009, and nondetection records were deduced from database records of other butterfly species. Our model revealed that metapopulation dynamics of Hipparchia had changed decades before the species' distribution began to contract. Colonization probability had already started to decline from 1950 onward, but this was counterbalanced by an increase in the survival of existing populations, the result of which was a stable distribution. Only from 1990 onward was survival not sufficient to compensate for the further decrease of colonization, and occupancy started to decline. Hence, it appears that factors acting many decades ago triggered a change in the metapopulation dynamics of this species, which ultimately led to a severe decline in occupancy that only became apparent much later. Our study emphasizes the importance of knowledge of changes in survival and colonization of species in modern landscapes over a very long time scale. It also demonstrates the power of site-occupancy modeling to obtain important population dynamics information from databases containing opportunistic sighting records
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