Effects of Human Disturbance on Butterfly Diversity and Abundance in Atewa Range Forest Range Forest Reserve, Ghana

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December 2012
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In the face of increasing human disturbance in tropical forests, it is important to understand how disturbance influence species assemblages. Though butterflies respond dramatically to disturbance, only a limited number of studies have examined the effects of varying levels of disturbance intensities on butterfly diversity and abundance. This study was conducted in Atewa Range Forest Reserve (ARFR) to determine butterfly diversity and abundance in forests which differed in plant diversity and structure as a result of different disturbance intensities (i.e. non-disturbed, moderately disturbed and heavily disturbed forests). Vegetation characteristics and butterflies were sampled within ten 50 m × 50 m plots in each forest type. The results revealed that butterfly diversity and abundance were similar in the non-disturbed and moderately disturbed forests although they were significantly lower in the highly disturbed forest (p < 0.001). There were significant relationships between vegetation characteristics, and butterfly diversity and abundance (p < 0.001) which indicate that changes in vegetation following human disturbance influenced butterfly assemblages in the area. Based on butterfly species composition in the forest types, certain butterfly species were classified as disturbance-avoiding, moderately disturbance-adapted and highly disturbance-adapted species. The findings of the study indicated that butterfly diversity and abundance were comparable in the non-disturbed and moderately disturbed forests but significantly lower in the heavily disturbed forest. Thus, intermediate form of human disturbance could maintain butterfly diversity and abundance in the forest reserve. Consequently, management efforts aimed at butterfly conservation should be geared towards protecting forests from excessive human disturbances; selective logging could be preferable.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Environmental Science, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in Partial Fulfillment of the Award of Master of Science in Environmental Science