Habitat heterogeneity supports day-flying Lepidoptera in oil palm plantations

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Dwi Advento, A 
Aryawan, AAK 
Caliman, JP 
Foster, WA 

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title> jats:pOil palm is one of Southeast Asia’s most common crops, and its expansion has caused substantial modification of natural habitats and put increasing pressure on biodiversity. Rising global demand for vegetable oil, coupled with oil palm’s high yield per unit area and the versatility of the palm oil product, has driven the expansion of oil palm agriculture in the region. Therefore, it is critical to identify management practices that can support biodiversity in plantations without exacerbating negative impacts on the environment. This study focuses on day-flying Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), which contribute to the ecosystem functioning as pollinators, prey, and herbivore species. We assessed whether density and behaviours of day-flying Lepidoptera varied between different habitats within oil palm plantations and across seasons. We surveyed the density and behaviours of Lepidoptera communities in mature industrial oil palm plantations within the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Tropical Agriculture (BEFTA) Programme sites, in Riau, Indonesia. We surveyed two distinct habitats within the plantations in March and September 2013: Edge habitats, which were bordered by plantation roads on one side, and Core habitats in the centre of oil palm planting blocks. We conducted analyses on the effect of habitat type and season on both the overall density and behaviour of Lepidoptera communities and, independently, on the most common species. In our surveys, we observed 1464 individuals across 41 species, with a significantly higher density in Edge than in Core habitats. While there was no significant difference between overall density in March and September surveys, there was an interaction between season and habitat, with density increasing more markedly in Edge than Core areas in September. There was also a significant effect of habitat and season on behavioural time budget for the community as a whole, with more active behaviours, such as foraging and mating, being recorded more frequently in Edge than Core habitats, and more commonly in September than March. The effect of habitat type, season, and their interaction differed between the six most common species. Our findings indicate that Lepidoptera abundance is affected by habitat characteristics in a plantation and can therefore be influenced by plantation management practices. In particular, our study highlights the value of road edges and paths in plantations for day-flying Lepidoptera. We suggest that increased non-crop vegetation in these areas, achieved through reduced clearing practices or planting of flowering plants, could foster abundant and active butterfly communities in plantations. These practices could form part of sustainability management recommendations for oil palm, such as those of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.</jats:p>

biodiversity, habitat heterogeneity, Indonesia, Lepidoptera, oil palm, plantation management, sustainability, tropical agriculture
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Journal of Tropical Ecology
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Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/P00458X/1)
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