Landscape Ecology

, Volume 30, Issue 8, pp 1461–1472 | Cite as

Patterns and causes of covariation in bird and butterfly community structure

  • Sarah M. Eglington
  • Tom M. Brereton
  • Catherine M. Tayleur
  • David Noble
  • Kate Risely
  • David B. Roy
  • James W. Pearce-Higgins
Research Article



Variation in biological communities is used to identify biodiversity responses to anthropogenic drivers, and to guide conservation responses. Often, such data are only available for a limited group of species, with uncertain applicability to unmonitored taxa.


Using equivalent data on the community structure of two contrasting taxa, we examine spatial co-variation in both communities, and test the extent to which any associations may result from large-scale latitudinal patterns, variation in habitat-type, or other factors.


Birds and butterflies were surveyed using standard methods across a stratified random sample of 1-km2 squares across the UK. Four measures of community structure were calculated and used to examine their association between the two taxa, before accounting for effects of latitude, habitat-type and observer.


Species richness, diversity and community specialisation were significantly correlated between birds and butterflies, but evenness was not. There were strong latitudinal gradients in bird community specialisation, and butterfly richness and diversity. Habitat diversity significantly affected bird communities, whilst butterfly evenness and specialisation was reduced on farmland and human-related habitats. Covariation in richness and diversity between taxa remained after including effects of latitude and habitat-type.


Surrogacy approaches may be useful when considering fine-scale variation in species richness and diversity to inform site-based conservation and management decisions. However, limited covariance in evenness and specialisation metrics suggest that decisions based on the needs of rare or specialist species may be less relevant to other taxa.


Citizen science Community specialisation Diversity Evenness Species richness Surrogacy approaches 



We would like to thank all those professional and amateur ornithologists who contributed to the collection of field data. The BBS is funded jointly by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The WBCS is a partnership between the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Butterfly Conservation and BTO, and is funded by a consortium of government agencies [Defra, Joint Nature Conservation Council (JNCC), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Natural England and the Forestry Commission (FC)].

Supplementary material

10980_2015_199_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 26 kb)
10980_2015_199_MOESM2_ESM.docx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah M. Eglington
    • 1
  • Tom M. Brereton
    • 2
  • Catherine M. Tayleur
    • 3
  • David Noble
    • 1
  • Kate Risely
    • 1
  • David B. Roy
    • 4
  • James W. Pearce-Higgins
    • 1
  1. 1.British Trust for OrnithologyThe NunneryNorfolkUK
  2. 2.Butterfly ConservationDorsetUK
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  4. 4.NERC Centre for Ecology & HydrologyOxfordshireUK

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