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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 May 15;104(20):8368-73. Epub 2007 May 7.

Habitat specialization, body size, and family identity explain lepidopteran density-area relationships in a cross-continental comparison.

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  • 1Department of Botany, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. peter.hamback@botan.su.se


Habitat fragmentation may strongly affect species density, species interactions, and the rate of ecosystem processes. It is therefore important to understand the observed variability among species responses to fragmentation and the underlying mechanisms. In this study, we compare density-area relationships (DARs) for 344 lepidopteran species belonging to 22 families (butterflies and moths). This analysis suggested that the DAR(slope) is generally positive for moths and negative for butterflies. The differences are suggested to occur because moths are largely olfactory searchers, whereas most butterflies are visual searchers. The analysis also suggests that DARs vary as a function of habitat specialization and body size. In butterflies, generalist species had a more negative DAR(slope) than specialist species because of a lower patch size threshold. In moths, the differences in DAR(slope) between forest and open habitat species were large for small species but absent for large species. This difference is argued to occur because the DAR(slope) in large species mainly reflects their search mode, which does not necessarily vary between moth groups, whereas the slope in small species reflects population growth rates.

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