Most butterfly monitoring protocols rely on counts along transects (Pollard walks) to generate species abundance indices and track population trends. It is still too often ignored that a population count results from two processes: the biological process (true abundance) and the statistical process (our ability to properly quantify abundance). Because individual detectability tends to vary in space (e.g., among sites) and time (e.g., among years), it remains unclear whether index counts truly reflect population sizes and trends. This study compares capture-mark-recapture (absolute abundance) and count-index (relative abundance) monitoring methods in three species (Maculinea nausithous and Iolana iolas: Lycaenidae; Minois dryas: Satyridae) in contrasted habitat types. We demonstrate that intraspecific variability in individual detectability under standard monitoring conditions is probably the rule rather than the exception, which questions the reliability of count-based indices to estimate and compare specific population abundance. Our results suggest that the accuracy of count-based methods depends heavily on the ecology and behavior of the target species, as well as on the type of habitat in which surveys take place. Monitoring programs designed to assess the abundance and trends in butterfly populations should incorporate a measure of detectability. We discuss the relative advantages and inconveniences of current monitoring methods and analytical approaches with respect to the characteristics of the species under scrutiny and resources availability.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)