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Climate and plant structure determine the spatiotemporal butterfly distribution in a tropical mountain

Cite this dataset

Beirão, Marina; Neves, Frederico S; Fernandes, G Wilson (2020). Climate and plant structure determine the spatiotemporal butterfly distribution in a tropical mountain [Dataset]. Dryad.


Mountains are among the most powerful natural gradients for testing ecological and evolutionary responses of biota to environmental influences because differences in climate and plant structure occur over short spatial scales. We describe the spatiotemporal distribution patterns and drives of fruit-feeding butterfly diversity on the mountaineous region of Serra do Cipó, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Seven elevations from 822 to 1388 m were selected for evaluating the effects of abiotic factors and vegetation characteristics on butterfly diversity. A total of 44 fruit-feeding butterfly species were recorded in a two-years study. Species richness (local and regional) of fruit-feeding butterflies decreased with increasing elevation. The interaction between temperature or humidity and precipitation influenced the abundance and β-diversity of butterflies in the altitudinal gradient, while β-diversity decreased with increasing plant richness. Butterfly richness (local and regional) and β-diversity varied with the sampling period, with fewer species in July (2012 and 2013), dry period, as expected for Neotropical insects. β-diversity in space and time was due to species replacement (turnover), indicating that butterfly composition differs throughout the mountain and over time. In summary, climate and plant richness largely influenced butterfly diversity in the altitudinal gradient. Climatic changes in conjunction with increasing anthropic impacts in mountainous regions of southeast Brazil will likely influence the community of mountaintop butterflies in Espinhaço Mountain Range.


In Serra do Cipó (Minas Gerais, Brazil), seven elevations were selected as sampling units along the western slope of Serra do Cipó ranging approximately from 800 to 1400 m, and separated by at least 2 km. Three transects (about 500 m apart) with four Van-Someren Rydon (VSR) traps were marked at each elevation to attract fruit-feeding butterflies. At each transect, the four traps were separated by about 50 m, baited with fermented banana with sugar cane juice . The data for each transect per period is a set of four days sampling with four traps. There were eight periods of sampling in two years. The diversity parameters calculated were:  i) abundance (number of individuals per elevation), ii) gamma diversity (the accumulation of species richness by elevation – γ diversity), (iii) alpha diversity (average species richness by elevation – α diversity), and (iv) spatial and temporal beta diversity (variation of the species composition - β-diversity, obtained through the formula β = γ / αmean, according to Wittaker, 1972). 

The abiotic variables (humidity, precipitation, and temperature) were obtained from meteorological towers (Onset HOBO® U30 data-logger) arranged adjacent to the transects of each sampling elevation. So the butterfly diversity parameters were accumulated per elevation per sampling period.

The vegetation was obtained in the paper of Motta et al. 2018, that were done in the same elevation area. For the vegetation analysis the butterfly diversity parameters were accumulated only per elevation.


Usage notes

The abiotic variables are not complete. The meteorological towers suffered from lightning or burning, so we don't have all the data for all altitudes and sampling period.


Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 441515/ 2016-9

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais, Award: APQ-02158-10