The re-expansion and improving status of the silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) in Britain: a metapopulation success story

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Davies, Zoe G. ; Wilson, Robert J. ; Brereton, Tom M. ; Thomas, Chris D. (2005)

Many specialist species are declining as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation, such that conservation actions typically aim to stem rates of decline rather than bring about genuine recovery. Here, we document the recovery of a species from former population refuges. An extensive survey of the entire British range of Hesperia comma, conducted in 2000, recorded over three times the number of tetrads (2 km · 2 km grid squares) occupied in 1982. This was accompanied by a fourfold increase in the number of populations and a 10-fold increase in the habitat area occupied. The improving status of H. comma is the product of good habitat management, recovering rabbit populations and climate warming, which have improved the quality, and increased the availability, of suitable habitat. This has enabled remnant metapopulations to expand, via distance-dependent colonisation, through large networks of habitat. Metapopulation recovery in H. comma demonstrates that landscape-scale conservation can be successful.
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