Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 5–6, pp 873–883 | Cite as

Butterfly communities along the Heihe River Basin in Shaanxi Province, a biodiversity conservation priority area in China

  • Lijun Fang
  • Yalin ZhangEmail author
  • Ke Gao
  • Changping Ding
  • Yujun Zhang


Quinling is one of 35 biodiversity conservation priority areas recognised in China’s National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011–2030). It is the boundary line and intersection transition zone between the two major animal geographic regions, namely Palearctic and Oriental. The Heihe River is located in the middle of the Qinling Mountains and originates from the south of the Taibai Mountain (the peak of Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi Province) in the northern foot of the Qinling Mountains. Bhutanitis thaidina and Luehdorfia chinensis distributed in the basin are both national secondary protected butterflies. There are many Chinese rare butterflies, such as Troides aeacus, Luehdorfia taibai, Sasakia charonda and Shaanxiana takashimai, etc. Reduced and lost biodiversity due to various driving forces and pressures such as human activities, habitat destruction and degradation, and regional response to global warming, has caused many rare butterflies to be on the verge of extinction. Butterfly species surveys were conducted along the Heihe River basin from 2007 to 2014. Community structure and diversity among the four sites and the three represented habitats were analyzed. A total of 9537 individuals of 261 species were recorded, belonging to 5 families and 130 genera. In addition, the biogeographic components showed that the widely distributed species were also the most abundant (151 species), representing 58% of the total. This was followed by the Oriental Region (66 species) that comprised 25% of the species. Species from the Palaearctic Region (44 species) made up 17%. This mixture reflects how the Heihe River basin is in a transitional zone between the Oriental and Palaearctic Realms. The abundance of butterfly communities and their typical transitional character along the Heihe River reveal the high conservation relevance. This paper summarizes the living conditions and threat status of rare species in different sites, and proposes corresponding conservation measures for different habitats.


Insecta Lepidoptera Butterfly Biodiversity Species richness 



We are grateful to Dr. Dirk Maes (Research Institute for Nature and Forest, Brussels, Belgium) and Dr. J. R. Schrock (Emporia State University, Kansas, USA) for reviewing the manuscript. This study is supported by the Major projects of Shaanxi Provincial Academy (2016K-06, 2013k-01, 2009k-04), the Shaanxi Provincial Science and Technology Research project (2013k14-01-02) and the Finance special projects in Shaanxi Province (2013–19).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individuals included in the study.

Research involving human and animal participants

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lijun Fang
    • 1
  • Yalin Zhang
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ke Gao
    • 3
  • Changping Ding
    • 4
  • Yujun Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Shaanxi Institute of BotanyShaanxi Engineering Research Centre for Conservation and Utilization of Botanical ResourcesXi’anChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Plant Protection Resources and Pest Management, Ministry of Education, Entomological MuseumNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  3. 3.Department of Evolutionary Biology, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem DynamicUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Shaanxi Institute of ZoologyNorthwest Institute of Endangered Zoological SpeciesXi’anChina

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