Butterflies as an indicator group of riparian ecosystem assessment.
Riparian ecosystems play an important role in modulating a range of ecosystem processes that affect aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Butterflies are a major herbivore in terrestrial ecosystems and are also common in riparian ecosystems. Since butterflies use plants for larval food and adult nectar sources in riparian ecosystems, butterfly diversity can be utilized to evaluate riparian ecosystems. We compiled butterfly data from 33 sites in three riparian ecosystem types across the country and compared butterfly diversity in terms of number of species and quality index in relation to riparian environmental variables. Number of butterfly and plant species was not different among three riparian habitat types. Additionally, there was no significant ecological variable to distinguish the butterfly communities on three riparian habitats. Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling ordination showed that butterfly communities in three riparian ecosystem types differed from each other, and butterfly riparian quality index was the main variable for butterfly assemblages. Five indicator species for moor and another five species for riverine riparian ecosystems were identified. Three and one indicator species for moor and riparian ecosystems, respectively, were plant specialists, while 44 butterflies were general feeders, feeding on a wide range of hostplants in several habitats. These results suggest that butterfly species use actively riparian habitats for nectar and larval food, and the butterfly riparian quality index can be employed to track faunal change in riparian habitats, which are frequently threatened by disturbances such as water level and climate changes, and invasive species.