Associations of butterflies across different forest types in Uttarakhand, western Himalaya, India: implications for conservation planning

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Arun Pratap Singh
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0981-9050

Abstract

Champion & Seth classified Indian forests into different ‘forest types and sub-types’, based on similarity of dominant vegetation and structural arrangement of species in each. However, it is not known if the species composition and community structure of butterflies is also different in each forest sub-type. If this is the case then each forest sub-type harbouring unique species can be taken as units of conservation on a sub-regional scale. The present study assesses for the first time the species composition and community structure of butterflies across 20 different and prominent ‘forest sub-types’ found across the state of Uttarakhand, western Himalaya. Data collected over eight years (2006–2009; June 2012; 2017–2020) using random seasonal sampling covering 307 transects revealed 370 butterfly taxa. Hierarchical clustering of butterfly abundances revealed seven different butterfly communities spread over 19 forest subtypes. Of these four forest sub-types (3C/C2a moist Shiwalik sal forest; 12/C2c moist temperate deciduous forest; 12/C1a ban oak forest; & 3C/C2c moist Terai sal forest) were identified as most important as they hold most of the butterfly diversity of the state including 58 rare taxa identified according to ‘rarity’ out of the total. GIS based mapping of these 58 priority species over laid on the protected area network and forest cover distribution in the state revealed many forested sites outside the PA network supporting these rare taxa. These sites along a physio-geographical gradient with important forest sub-types and rare taxa can be recommended and listed as new sites for conservation in the state.

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