Maximising the benefit of urban woodlands for butterflies

Neal, Bradley; Araya, Yoseph and Wheeler, Philip (2023). Maximising the benefit of urban woodlands for butterflies. In: British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2023, 12-15 Dec 2023, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.


Urban woodlands play an important role in supporting biodiversity and human wellbeing but are under unique pressures and are typically small fragments within a hostile matrix. Importantly, in most cases, they cannot easily be expanded in size. We used pollard walks to survey 22 urban woodlands across 42 transects for butterflies in Milton Keynes, UK, which ranged in size from 1 - 40 ha, and age from recent plantation to ancient woodland. Using a rapid habitat assessment technique, we collected data on the habitat structure at 100m intervals along each 500m transect. We found that area plays and important role, but crucially, structural complexity also explained butterfly richness, abundance and diversity. Therefore, we show that urban woodlands can be highly valuable refuges for butterflies and that management for structural complexity overrides habitat area in importance for butterfly diversity, and there is considerable value in managing urban woodlands for conservation.

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