The influence of habitat quality on oviposition site selection for the high brown fritillary (Argynnis adippe)

Project Details

Layman's description

Habitat specialists are disproportionately affected by habitat loss, fragmentation, and the deterioration of remaining patches, leaving them at more risk of extinction than generalists. The UK population of the specialist High Brown Fritillary butterfly (Fabriciana adippe) is listed as “Critically Endangered’ due to a steep decline in abundance over 10 years (-85%) and a reduction in its range that has left it surviving in only four landscape areas. Current management strategies are based on research undertaken over 25 years ago, and whilst there have been extensive interventions at the landscape scale, detrimental micro-habitat changes are evident. Additionally, the narrow niche requirements of this butterfly may have changed over time.

This PhD study aims to be the first to determine which micro-habitat features are important for this species, with a particular focus on the early stages of its life cycle. The work will assess the relevance of the preference-performance hypothesis for this butterfly by studying oviposition site selection alongside changes in micro-habitat quality through to larval emergence. A parallel strand of research will focus on controlled habitat manipulation of the species preferred Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) habitat to assess how different management techniques affect micro-habitat quality. Finally, the research will focus on climate change-related nitrogen deposition as a factor in the decline of this butterfly. A meta-analysis will synthesize existing evidence regarding the effect of nitrogen enrichment in food-plants on a range of lepidoptera larvae to reveal trends and identify species more at risk.

The findings will be used to inform future research and conservation practice, and will be disseminated through workshops, conference presentations, papers, and the production of a new set of management guidelines for the High Brown Fritillary.

Effective start/end date16/09/1911/09/23


  • High brown fritillary
  • Ecology
  • Conservation
  • Oviposition
  • Habitat management


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