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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Butterfly monitoring using systematically placed transects in contrasting climatic regions - exploring an established spatial design for sampling

Videvall, Elin; Öckinger, Erik; Pettersson, Lars B.


Butterfly monitoring schemes are recording programs initiated to monitor nationwide butterfly abundance and distribution patterns, often with help from volunteers. The method generates high-resolution data, but may be associated with a degree of habitat sampling bias if volunteers prefer to survey areas perceived to be high-quality butterfly habitats. This can result in habitats becoming underrepresented in the data set, leading to less information about the butterfly populations there. In the present study, we investigate the possibility of applying a spatial design used by the Swedish Bird Survey for nationwide, grid-based sampling, with a goal to get butterfly monitoring data covering a representative sample of different habitats. We surveyed four 2x2 km sampling squares, split into 100 m segments, in the southernmost region of Sweden (Scania) and four in the northernmost region (Norrbotten). The grid-based transects were compared with volunteer-selected transects in a GIS analysis using a refined Swedish version of CORINE land cover data to see how well these two transect designs represent true habitat coverage. A total of 53 km transect was monitored, resulting in 490 individuals and 29 different species recorded. We found that transect cover correlated significantly with overall land cover using both monitoring methods, though standardised transects outperformed volunteer-selected transects in habitat representation in Scania, but not in Norrbotten. Butterflies were found to aggregate significantly in specific habitats, but with contrasting results for the two geographically different regions. Grasslands in both regions generated a high number of recorded butterflies, although so did clear-cut and residential areas in Norrbotten as well. The highest number of individuals recorded per transect was found in bogs in Scania. This study emphasises the value of complementing free site selection monitoring schemes with spatially representative schemes such as the Swedish Bird Survey, and sheds some light on general habitat preferences for Swedish butterflies in two contrasting climatic regions.


Butterflies; monitoring; biodiversity; habitat; sampling; transects; boreal; continental; populations; GIS; CORINE

Published in

Nature Conservation
2016, volume: 14, number: 14, pages: 41-62

Authors' information

Videvall, Elin
Lund University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Pettersson, Lars B.
Lund University

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

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