Understanding the ecology of Succisa pratensis Moench to inform conservation of marshy grassland for the Euphydryas aurinia Rottemburg butterfly

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Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships
Award date03 Jun 2015
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A key focus of conservation efforts for the endangered butterfly Euphydryas aurinia is its main host plant Succisa pratensis. In Wales, the Caeau Mynydd Mawr SAC represents an important metapopulation of E. aurinia and a project has been established to restore 100 ha of marshy grassland suitable for the butterfly. Development and changes in agriculture have left the current habitat fragmented and isolated, which can threaten the survival of remaining plant populations as well as the butterfly. S. pratensis populations within the Caeau Mynydd Mawr Project area were surveyed to examine the relationships between population size, reproductive and phenomic fitness variables of S. pratensis. Records of E. aurinia from 1980-2013 were used to investigate the relationships between the extant S. pratensis populations and long-term occurrence of E. aurinia. In addition, the described varieties of S. pratensis were investigated using herbarium specimens and screened with chloroplast markers in order to assess whether they were a concern for conservation work. The results indicate that smaller populations of S. pratensis show decreased number of seeds per flower head, smaller seed and fewer leaves. The long-term occurrence of E. aurinia showed a positive relationship with population size of S. pratensis and fitness traits, primarily leaf number. Restoration work should therefore select larger populations for any seed harvesting and within larger populations the number of seeds per flower head and seed weight can be used to select seed more likely of germinating and surviving to seedling stage. S. pratensis was found to have limited genetic variation when tested using chloroplast regions, but limited success was achieved with the herbarium specimens of the described varieties. Conservation recommendations for S. pratensis and E. aurinia are given.