Butterfly diversity in human-modified ecosystems of southern Sikkim, the eastern Himalaya, India

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Prem Kumar Chettri
Kishor Sharma
Sailendra Dewan
Bhoj Kumar Acharya


Understanding wild biodiversity of agroecosystems and other human dominated landscapes are crucial for the management and conservation of biological resources.  Here, we studied the diversity, abundance, similarity and functionality of butterflies in different human modified ecosystems in southern Sikkim, the Eastern Himalaya.  The study was conducted from January 2015 to May 2015 by covering three habitat types namely, farm-based agroforestry, large cardamom-based agroforestry and adjacent natural forest ecosystem.  We followed point count method along the transect to collect data on butterflies in the study area.  A total of 911 individual butterflies representing six families and 44 species were recorded during the present study in southern Sikkim.  Species richness and abundances of butterflies were significantly different among the systems.  While diversity and abundance were higher in forest patches, each system harbored unique species assemblages with low similarity between habitats.  The information on larval host plants were available for 41 butterfly species which depended on 128 plant species belonging to 27 families.  The butterfly community was dominated by oligophagous II (19 species) followed by polyphagous (11 species), monophagous (8 species) and oligophagous I (3 species). Similarly, generalist feeders had higher species and abundance compared to specialist feeders. Specialist species were confined to forest habitat, whereas generalist species were mostly restricted to cultivated systems.  The findings of the study highlighted the need for conservation of traditionally managed agroecosystems in order to conserve butterflies and other associated biodiversity.

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Author Biographies

Prem Kumar Chettri, Department of Zoology, School of Life Sciences, Sikkim University, Tadong, Gangtok, Sikkim 737102, India Present address: Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim, Deorali, Sikkim 737102, India

Prem K.Chettri holds M.Sc. (Zoology) from Sikkim University and currently works at the Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim. He has a keen interest on biodiversity of Sikkim Himalaya with special focus on butterflies and plants.

Kishor Sharma, Department of Zoology, School of Life Sciences, Sikkim University, Tadong, Gangtok, Sikkim 737102, India

Kishor Sharma is a Ph.D. Scholar at the Department of Zoology, Sikkim University. His research interests are to understand the diversity and distribution patterns of birds and butterflies in the agroecosystem-forest gradient of Sikkim Himalaya.

Sailendra Dewan, Department of Zoology, School of Life Sciences, Sikkim University, Tadong, Gangtok, Sikkim 737102, India

Sailendra Dewan is a Ph.D. Scholar at the Department of Zoology, Sikkim University. His research focuses on distribution pattern and phylogeny of butterflies along elevation gradients in the Sikkim Himalaya.

Bhoj Kumar Acharya, Department of Zoology, School of Life Sciences, Sikkim University, Tadong, Gangtok, Sikkim 737102, India

Bhoj Kumar Acharya is a faculty in the Department of Zoology, Sikkim University, Gangtok. His research interests are to understand the large-scale ecological patterns with particular emphasis on species richness, abundance and distribution patterns along ecological gradients in the Himalayas.


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