Data from: Urban forest fragments as unexpected sanctuaries for the rare endemic ghost butterfly from the Atlantic forest.
de Andrade, Antonio; Medeiros, William; Adams, Matthew (2020), Data from: Urban forest fragments as unexpected sanctuaries for the rare endemic ghost butterfly from the Atlantic forest., Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.tr62rm1
Anthropogenic land expansion, particularly urbanization, is pervasive, dramatically modifies the environment and is a major threat to wildlife with its associated environmental stressors. Urban remnant vegetation can help mitigate these impacts and could be vital for species unable to survive in harsh urban environments. Although resembling non-urban habitats, urban vegetation remnants are subject to additional environmental stresses. Here we evaluate the occurrence and density of the endemic ghost butterfly (Morpho epistrophus nikolajewna), that was once common, in the highly fragmented Atlantic forest of NE Brazil. We tested whether this butterfly would be found at lower densities in urban forest fragments of contrasting sizes as opposed to rural ones, given the number of environmental stressors found in urban areas. We surveyed 14 forest fragments (range 2.8 to over 3000 ha) of semi-deciduous Atlantic forest in rural and urban locations using transect based distance sampling. The ghost butterflies showed strong seasonality; flying only from April to June. They were only identified in an urban fragment (515 ha), with an estimate of 720 individuals and a density 1.4 ind/ha. All forest fragments had experienced some level of logging in the past, which might have had an effect in the butterfly population. Nevertheless, rural forest fragments were subject to increased particulate matter concentrations, associated to biomass burning, that we suggest might have had a more influential role driving the collapse of rural populations. Our findings show the importance of urban forest remnants to sustain population of this endangered species.