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Habitat modelling for metapopulation species

The speckled wood Pararge aegeria (L.) was selected as a model organism occupying natural and semi-natural habitats in order to analyse the relative impact of environmental variables subjected to anthropogenic alteration such as climate, land use and habitat quality. Its distribution was recorded at 23 test sites of 5 x 5 km in agricultural landscapes across seven European countries (France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Estonia). Environmental predictors were mapped at a local (250 m) and a regional scale (5 x 5 km). We developed logistic regression models for two environmental scenarios.

- The High abundance scenario was characterized by beneficial environmental and weather conditions coinciding with high local abundance of P. aegeria.

- The Low abundance scenario reflected environmental stress and adverse weather conditions during larval development coinciding with low local abundance. The high abundance scenario revealed a low but equal effect of local and regional factors. Hence, P. aegeria was predicted to occur nearly anywhere under beneficial conditions.

The low abundance scenario revealed totally different patterns. The effects of local and regional factors were high but climate dominated. P. aegeria was restricted to high quality patches and landscapes under adverse conditions. As both scenarios resulted in entirely different models, our study showed that the sensitivity of P. aegeria to local and landscape features might change, and alleged less important factors could turn into limiting factors. This stressed the importance of high quality landscape conditions at both local and regional scales even for species that appear to be relatively tolerant, and sounds a note of caution when predicting population response for management purposes based on just a single (or a few) year(s) of observation.

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UFZ Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig-Halle Ltd.
Theodor-Lieser-Strasse 4
06120 Halle/Saale
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