Spatially and Financially Explicit Population Viability Analysis of Maculinea alcon in The Netherlands

V. Radchuk, M.F. Wallis de Vries, N. Schtickzelle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background The conservation of species structured in metapopulations involves an important dilemma of resource allocation: should investments be directed at restoring/enlarging habitat patches or increasing connectivity. This is still an open question for Maculinea species despite they are among the best studied and emblematic butterfly species, because none of the population dynamics models developed so far included dispersal. Methodology/Principal Findings We developed the first spatially and financially explicit Population Viability Analysis model for Maculinea alcon, using field data from The Netherlands. Implemented using the RAMAS/GIS platform, the model incorporated both local (contest density dependence, environmental and demographic stochasticities), and regional population dynamics (dispersal rates between habitat patches). We selected four habitat patch networks, contrasting in several basic features (number of habitat patches, their quality, connectivity, and occupancy rate) to test how these features are affecting the ability to enhance population viability of four basic management options, designed to incur the same costs: habitat enlargement, habitat quality improvement, creation of new stepping stone habitat patches, and reintroduction of captive-reared butterflies. The PVA model was validated by the close match between its predictions and independent field observations on the patch occupancy pattern. The four patch networks differed in their sensitivity to model parameters, as well as in the ranking of management options. Overall, the best cost-effective option was enlargement of existing habitat patches, followed by either habitat quality improvement or creation of stepping stones depending on the network features. Reintroduction was predicted to generally be inefficient, except in one specific patch network. Conclusions/Significance Our results underline the importance of spatial and regional aspects (dispersal and connectivity) in determining the impact of conservation actions, even for a species previously considered as sedentary. They also illustrate that failure to account for the cost of management scenarios can lead to very different conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere38684
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • individual-based model
  • large blue butterflies
  • habitat quality
  • ant nests
  • metapopulation dynamics
  • sensitivity-analysis
  • host-specificity
  • social parasite
  • conservation
  • lepidoptera


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