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Keywords:

  • dispersal distance;
  • Lepidoptera;
  • mark–release–recapture;
  • movement;
  • Zygaenidae

Summary

  • 1
    Among small animals dispersal parameters are mainly obtained by traditional methods using population studies of marked individuals. Dispersal studies may underestimate the rate and distance of dispersal, and be biased because of aggregated habitat patches and a small study area. The probability of observing long distance dispersal events decreases with distance travelled by the organisms. In this study a new approach is presented to solve this methodological problem.
  • 2
    An extensive mark–release–recapture programme was performed in an area of 81 km2 in southern Sweden. To estimate the required size of the study area for adequate dispersal measures we examined the effect of study area size on dispersal distance using empirical data and a repeated subsampling procedure. In 2003 and 2004, two species of diurnal burnet moths (Zygaenidae) were studied to explore dispersal patterns.
  • 3
    The longest confirmed dispersal distance was 5600 m and in total 100 dispersal events were found between habitat patches for the two species. The estimated dispersal distance was strongly affected by the size of the study area and the number of marked individuals. For areas less than 10 km2 most of the dispersal events were undetected. Realistic estimates of dispersal distance require a study area of at least 50 km2.
  • 4
    To obtain adequate measures of dispersal, the marked population should be large, preferably over 500 recaptured individuals. This result was evident for the mean moved distance, mean dispersal distance and maximum dispersal distance.
  • 5
    In general, traditional dispersal studies are performed in small study areas and based on few individuals and should therefore be interpreted with care. Adequate dispersal measures for insects obtained by radio-tracking and genetic estimates (gene flow) is still a challenge for the future.