June 19, 2017

Lancaster University – Conserving mountain species in the face of climate change: the Mountain Ringlet butterfly in Cumbria – Rosa Menendez

Project Objectives

The main objectives of this project were:

  • To model the distribution of the mountain ringlet butterfly (Erebia epiphron) in the Lake District using existing distribution records and a combination of climatic, topographical, geological and habitat variables.
  • To carry out butterfly surveys, in collaboration with Butterfly Conservation members and volunteers, in order to validate the model.
  • To carry out lab work to measure host-plant quality to assess how this varies with elevation and geology.

Outcomes and benefits

The main research outputs of the project were:

  • A database and GIS maps were generated for climate, topographical, geological variables and distributed data of the mountain ringlet butterfly in the Lake District at a 1km resolution. This allows the distribution of the species to be modelled at the landscape scale in relation to environmental variables.
  • Butterfly surveys were carried out to assess the presence/absence of the species in squares were the species was previously unrecorded.
  • Information about how the nutritional quality of the butterfly’s host-plant varied with elevation and with the type of geology was gathered. The results indicate that plants at higher elevations and in volcanic rocks contain a lower C/N ratio suggesting that they could be of better nutritional quality for the caterpillars.

The main benefits to the student were:

  • The student gained field skills in identification and surveying of butterflies and laboratory skills in measuring C and N from plants.
  • The student was introduced to experimental design and gained experience in using SPSS for statistical data analysis.
  • The student had the opportunity to interact with other researchers (including Ecology/Biology UG and Master students doing their dissertations and PhD students) and technicians during the lab work. He became aware of the Health and Safety regulation in relation with doing ecological work.
  • The student benefited from interaction with members of Butterfly Conservation and RSPB which are both involved in the management and conservation of the butterfly in the Lake District.