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Title: Evaluating the conservation status of Neotropical butterflies and the impact of systematics on threat assessments
Author: Huertas Hernandez, B. C.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5363 9406
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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Most biological diversity is concentrated in the tropics and represented by insects, but threatened species programmes were created for and concentrate on vertebrates. Unfortunately, there is an impediment to the conservation of tropical insects resulting from issues with taxonomy, quality of data and resources available. Butterflies, among insects, are one of the most suitable organisms for conservation studies. The first goal of this research was to examine the feasibility of assessing the threat status of Neotropical butterflies using IUCN criteria. Recently, an index using Red List data has been developed by IUCN to evaluate trends in threats to hyper-diverse groups based on a random sample of species. IUCN Red List threat assessments were undertaken by collating available locality data from various sources and modelling species ranges using BIOCLIM within DIVA-GIS. Following this approach, 631 Neotropical butterfly species were selected from the sample of 1500 world species. Threat assessments were carried out for 336 species in three families from which suitable data were available, and a preliminary list of Key Biodiversity Areas for butterflies was identified. Distribution ranges were modelled, then compared to land use changes to evaluate habitat loss. A total of 23 butterfly species were categorised as Vulnerable and 3 Endangered, with the rest as Least Concern. Only 7.7% of species were found to be threatened, a relatively low proportion compared to other groups, but this seems likely to be an underestimate of the real threats facing this group. In order to explore this issue, a systematic review of the genus Splendeuptychia (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae) was undertaken. This genus is polyphyletic and was found to comprise at least four genera of which that containing the type species of Splendeuptychia was studied further. Once unnamed taxa and several cryptic species were recognised, the number of species-level taxa in this group increased significantly, as did the number of threatened species because species with restricted ranges were taxonomically overlooked. This study highlights the importance of detailed systematic research to achieve effective biodiversity conservation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available