The influence of landscape composition on butterfly populations: A behavioural ecological approach
Overall, taking behavioural ecological and trait-based approaches, my study suggests that the distribution of a species and patterns in its population densities in a landscape are affected by diverse ecological variables, including local factors, such as heterogeneity in multiple resources required by a species, and landscape factors, such as habitat area and connectivity. Using a behavioural ecological approach, I find that butterflies responded to resource heterogeneity at multiple spatial scales and appeared to balance acquiring multiple resources when making foraging and space-use decision. The next step would be to examine how such foraging and space use decisions influence demographic parameters, such as survival, fecundity and movement, and thereby affect the dynamics of butterfly populations. Next, examining landscape-level factors using trait-based approaches, my study highlights that species responses to landscape features can be strikingly variable, for example with some species showing strong negative relationships and others no consistent relationship with connectivity. Similarly, I also found striking variation in species distributions in the landscape. Interestingly, varied functional traits (ecological, morphological, life-history, and behavioural) helped predict these diverse responses to landscape features, and the diverse species distributions. My findings suggest that strength of habitat associations at small and large spatial scales, matrix permeability, wing span, diet breadth and flight characteristics are important traits in butterflies that can be used build a predictive framework for how butterfly populations respond to landscape structure and composition. How these individual population responses to local and landscape features translate into community-level processes needs to be investigated.