Species Series: Beautiful butterflies


They may be small, but butterflies play a key role in helping us to understand the impacts of human disturbance on the forests of Borneo.

Butterflies are one of the most beautiful animals of the forest. There are about 20 species that we see regularly in the Sabangau Forest and with so much diversity each species is different from the next.

Butterflies in the Sabangau Forest. Photo by Anna Triggol/OuTrop

We have studied butterflies in Sabangau since 2004 and in 2012 we started monthly surveys as part of our ongoing biodiversity monitoring programme. We use traps baited with banana and Malaga (a local alcohol) to attract the butterflies. Checked daily, we record the species, forewing length, body length, gender and wing condition. The butterflies are gently marked before releasing them again.
Collecting data for our long-term biodiversity monitoring programme. 
Photo by Connie Miller/OuTrop

The traps are set up in different areas of the forest with varying levels of human disturbance as a result of legal and illegal logging in the 1990s and early 2000s. Butterflies are sensitive to changes in their environment so are used as a good ‘ecological indicator’ species. This means that the presence and abundance of butterfly species can give an indication of the condition of the forest.

The results of this research are used to help us better understand how human disturbance can impact on the environment. We can also use the data to investigate whether our conservation efforts are having a long-term effect on this peat-swamp forest following years of disturbance.

Join us next week for our final blog, in this series, 
about the entire ecosystem (and logo)!