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Modelling the functional connectivity and population dynamics of butterflies using population and genetic data

Greenwell, M. P. ORCID: (2021) Modelling the functional connectivity and population dynamics of butterflies using population and genetic data. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00106216


Biodiversity monitoring underpins decision making in conservation. From small scale management, through to international policy decisions, biodiversity data are used to advise and influence those in positions of power. We live in an age of increasing data accumulation. In particular, an increase in citizen science schemes has led to a wealth of biodiversity information. Despite this increase in data collection, there are still large gaps in our knowledge, with questions that remain unanswered and subjects that continue to be neglected. This thesis focuses on biodiversity monitoring, investigating how data from current long-term monitoring schemes can be applied to novel questions, how new forms of biodiversity monitoring are desperately required and how different forms of biodiversity monitoring data can be combined to explain features of a species biology. Firstly, long-term population monitoring data are used to overcome an impasse in functional ecology. The ability to predict ecosystem service stability has so far been an out of reach goal. However, analysing correlations between species population dynamics offers an achievable method of determining whether specific functions and services are at risk of declining due to changes in species abundances across a community. Secondly, the genetic diversity of the meadow brown butterfly, Maniola jurtina, is investigated at both the spatial and temporal scale. The genetic diversity of the species is found to be stable across the study area and over time. This represents an important contribution to the field of genetic diversity monitoring. Despite being acknowledged as an increasingly important measure of biodiversity, genetic diversity monitoring schemes are extremely rare outside of socioeconomic species. This study represents one of the first examples of the monitoring of a wild species that has no direct economic value. Next, the genetic diversity of M. jurtina is investigated at the continental scale, building upon the work in the previous chapter. Across the continent there appears to be distinct population structuring, with individuals in the UK belonging to a different genetic cluster to those on the mainland. Finally, the ability to combine monitoring data with genetic and experimental data is demonstrated with an investigation into the phenology of M. jurtina. Analysis of long-term monitoring data determined that M. jurtina display a protracted flight period on chalk sites. Genetic data are used to determine whether any genetic structuring of populations is associated with these differences, whilst experimental data are used to determine the effect of drought on phenology. Overall, this thesis brings together three separate areas to demonstrate the wide range of studies that monitoring data can be applied to. Furthermore, the importance of genetic diversity monitoring is highlighted, along with a demonstration into the relative ease at which it can be accomplished. In the final chapter, the limitations of the work are discussed along with the wide range of future applications.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Oliver, T.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Biological Sciences
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences
ID Code:106216
Date on Title Page:September 2020


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