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Habitat quality and biodiversity indicator performances of a threatened butterfly versus a multispecies group for wet heathlands in Belgium

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Original languageEnglish
JournalBIOLOGICAL CONSERVATION
Volume123
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)177-187
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Abstract

We analyzed whether a single species (i.e., the threatened Alcon Blue butterfly Maculinea alcon) was a useful indicator for the quality and area of wet heathlands in Belgium. During a survey of 18 wet Erica tetralix heathlands, we identified 624 species from 20 different taxonomic groups. Sites with the single indicator species M. alcon were significantly richer in typical wet heathland species and in Red List species but did not show significant differences in biotope quality (i.e., the number of different typical wet heathland biotope attributes) than sites without. In addition, we used a multispecies indicator approach including a group of nine species from five different taxonomic groups (two birds, two dragonflies, two butterflies, two vascular plants and one grasshopper). High quality sites (5–9 species from the multispecies indicator group present) tended to have more Red list species than low quality sites (0–4 species from the multispecies indicator group present) but did not expose differences in overall species richness, typical wet heathland species or in biotope quality. The number of species in this umbrella group, however, was positively correlated with both the diversity of typical wet heathland species and with biotope quality. Furthermore, the complementary information of the species in the multispecies indicator group usefully signalled distinctions in biotope area and configuration, vulnerability to fragmentation, eutrophication, desiccation and contained species of different trophic levels; this was not the case for M. alcon as a single indicator species. We discuss the use of a single indicator and of a multispecies group as conservation umbrella and advocate a much wider use of combined knowledge from different taxonomic groups in conservation planning and evaluation.

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