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Fruit-feeding Butterfly Communities are Influenced by Restoration Age in Tropical Forests



Currently, a large-scale restoration project aims to restore around 15 million hectares of Atlantic Forest in Brazil. This will increase forest cover and connectivity among remnant sites as well as restore environmental services. Currently, studies on recovery of fauna in restored areas of the Atlantic Forest are practically nonexistent. To address this knowledge vacuum, our study compares diversity patterns of fruit-feeding butterflies in three forest areas with different restoration ages (11, 22, and 54 years), and uses a native forest area as reference. Results showed butterfly communities in maturing restored areas becoming more similar to the ones found in the native forest, with an increase in the proportional abundance of forest species, and a decrease of edge and grassland species. Moreover, we found a higher diversity among sites at the intermediate restoration age, with a community composed of both grassland and forest species. Butterfly species composition differed significantly among sites, showing interesting patterns of potential species replacement over time. Our results indicate that, although restored sites were located in a fragmented landscape, they provide suitable habitats for recolonization by fruit-feeding butterfly assemblages. Hence, restored areas can be considered important habitat for forest animal species, increasing local biodiversity and, possibly, restoring some of the ecosystem services provided by them.