Does tropical forest fragmentation increase long-term variability of butterfly communities?
Habitat fragmentation is a major driver of biodiversity loss. Yet, the overall effects of fragmentation on biodiversity may be obscured by differences in responses among species. These opposing responses to fragmentation may be manifest in higher variability in species richness and abundance (termed hyperdynamism), and in predictable changes in community composition. We tested whether forest fragmentation causes long-term hyperdynamism in butterfly communities, a taxon that naturally displays large variations in species richness and community composition. Using a dataset from an experimentally fragmented landscape in the central Amazon that spanned 11 years, we evaluated the effect of fragmentation on changes in species richness and community composition through time. Overall, adjusted species richness (adjusted for survey duration) did not differ between fragmented forest and intact forest. However, spatial and temporal variation of adjusted species richness was significantly higher in fragmented forests relative to intact forest. This variation was associated with changes in butterfly community composition, specifically lower proportions of understory shade species and higher proportions of edge species in fragmented forest. Analysis of rarefied species richness, estimated using indices of butterfly abundance, showed no differences between fragmented and intact forest plots in spatial or temporal variation. These results do not contradict the results from adjusted species richness, but rather suggest that higher variability in butterfly adjusted species richness may be explained by changes in butterfly abundance. Combined, these results indicate that butterfly communities in fragmented tropical forests are more variable than in intact forest, and that the natural variability of butterflies was not a buffer against the effects of fragmentation on community dynamics.