Butterflies show different functional and species diversity in relationship to vegetation structure and land use

Jesús Aguirre-Gutiérrez*, Michiel Wallis de Vries, Leon Marshall, Maarten van 't Zelfde, Alma R. Villalobos-Arámbula, Bastiaen Boekelo, Harm Bartholomeus, Markus Franzén, Jacobus C. Biesmeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)



Biodiversity is rapidly disappearing at local and global scales also affecting the functional diversity of ecosystems. We aimed to assess whether functional diversity was correlated with species diversity and whether both were affected by similar land use and vegetation structure drivers. Better understanding of these relationships will allow us to improve our predictions regarding the effects of future changes in land use on ecosystem functions and services.


The Netherlands.


We compiled a dataset of c. 3 million observations of 66 out of 106 known Dutch butterfly species collected across 6,075 sampling locations during a period of 7 years, together with very high-resolution maps of land use and countrywide vegetation structure data. Using a mixed-effects modelling framework, we investigated the relationship between functional and species diversity and their main land use and vegetation structure drivers.


We found that high species diversity does not translate into high functional diversity, as shown by their different spatial distribution patterns in the landscape. Functional and species diversity are mainly driven by different sets of structural and land use parameters (especially average vegetation height, amount of vegetation between 0.5 and 2 m, natural grassland, sandy soils vegetation, marsh vegetation and urban areas). We showed that it is a combination of both vegetation structural characteristics and land use variables that defines functional and species diversity.

Main conclusions

Functional diversity and species diversity of butterflies are not consistently correlated and must therefore be treated separately. High functional diversity levels occurred even in areas with low species diversity. Thus, conservation actions may differ depending on whether the focus is on conservation of high functional diversity or high species diversity. A more integrative analysis of biodiversity at both species and trait levels is needed to infer the full effects of environmental change on ecosystem functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1126-1137
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • functional diversity
  • landscape composition
  • LiDAR
  • pollinators
  • response traits
  • species diversity
  • vegetation structure


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