Modelling butterfly responses to field margin design

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


Project overview: The primary aim of UK Environmental Stewardship schemes is to conserve biodiversity in the wider countryside, by offering refuge to non-target species of cultural and economic value and by reconnecting habitats across a fragmented landscape. However, the benefits of these tailored agri-environment schemes have yet to be fully assessed and understood. For example, field margins and buffer strips have been shown to promote the abundance and dispersal of insects, but the effect differs both within and between taxonomic groups. The aim of this project is to understand the interaction between what floral resources the habitats offer, the connectivity of the landscape, weather and the dispersal biology of different butterfly species. This will help optimisation of field margin management and placement. This project's focus is on butterflies, a taxon for which there is plentiful biological and ecological data to parameterise individual-based models.

Full training will be given in a variety of modelling approaches and fieldwork. Experience with population modelling would be an advantage.

Training opportunities: We offer specialist training in entomological fieldwork, individual-based modelling in NetLogo and Approximate Bayesian Computation methods in R. The CEH Learning and Development program and Syngenta's Biological Sciences and Product Safety Research programme offer additional opportunities to develop transferable skills in scientific writing, project management and science communication in a non-academic environment.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/N504129/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019
1642414 Studentship BB/N504129/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Luke Christopher Evans
Description - The goal of the project was to develop models that predict how populations of butterflies respond to varying landscape structures with a focus on the impact of agri-environment schemes
- We built a series of models that enabled us to understand how adult butterflies move and respond to resources in their environment
- We then applied the final model to quantify the potential benefits to butterflies of including field margins within agricultural landscapes, such as the effect of varying the amount of land set-aside as field margins and the number of flowering plants they contained.
Exploitation Route The model we built, as a proof-of-concept, was targeted at one species. We aim to produce a more general version of the model that could be used to predict more widely the benefits to butterflies of different types of agri-environment schemes, i.e. seed mixes, layout of set-aside.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description 'Animals on the move' local exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Animals on the move was a two-day exhibition aimed to showcase the general public the different modes of animal migration. Over the two days ~400 attended. My role as a scientist was to talk about how butterflies move across landscapes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020