Home Institution

University of Virginia

Publication Date

Fall 12-1-2014

Program Name

Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation


Due to the increasing effects of climate change, studies focusing on bioindicator species are becoming more necessary than ever. Additionally, knowledge about global biodiversity can be very useful to conservation organizations because it helps them determine what areas need to be conserved the most .Butterflies are useful as bioindicators due to their complex life cycles, importance in the food chain, and sensitivity to environmental changes. This project focused on studying the overall biodiversity of butterflies in the La Hesperia reserve. In addition, this study aimed to determine how butterfly diversity varies at different altitudes. To do this, the reserve was broken up into three altitudinal zones (Low, Mid, and Hi), and 5 bait traps and 6 transects were conducted in each zone to assess the diversity present there. The project resulted in the identification of 113 different butterfly species in the reserve. Data from the three zones were also compared, and it was determined the Low Zone was the most diverse based on its species richness, abundance, endemism, and overall biodiversity index, whereas the Hi Zone was the least diverse. The data from this project were also compared to a study conducted in 1985 by Xavier Silva to determine how diversity has changed in the reserve. This project found 19 more species than the 1985 study, but many of the species present in the 1985 study were not present in this 2014 one, and vice versa. These differences could be due to a variety of factors, such as regrowth of vegetation in the reserve, global warming, and changes in taxonomical classifications. The information gathered in this research project can be used to increase awareness of the butterfly diversity in the reserve, as well as provide a foundation for future studies that can be conducted in the reserve and compared with this one to determine how changes in the environment have affected butterfly diversity in the reserve.


Behavior and Ethology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | International and Area Studies | Latin American Studies | Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Population Biology | Zoology


Article Location