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Project summary

An opportunity to undertake butterfly research and promote conservation and education at Semuliki National Park. Work undertaken at National Parks in Uganda is in collaboration with the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and the park administration, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), 

Working at Semuliki National Park provides a rare opportunity for participating in research within the biogeographical Guineo-Congolian region. This ecological zone comprising equatorial tropical lowland forests of the Congo Basin is typified by monodominant stands of the leguminous tree Cynometra alexandri, found to the east of the park. These trees create a dense closed canopy which promotes the damp and humid conditions that fruit-feeding butterflies prefer. 

The research (together with increasing the number of recorded species) will focus on the distribution and composition of the fruit-feeding butterfly assemblage, commonly associated with Guineo-Congolian lowland forests. The eastern range extent of the majority of species making up this fruit-feeding butterfly assemblage only extends to Semuliki National Park. However, climate impact, effecting environmental changes, is modifying species distributions, especially the forest-restricted species making up the fruit-feeding butterfly assemblage. This can either be at large spatial scales or at the microhabitat level. Further research can then contribute to further understanding the ecology, evolution and conservation of the assemblage and expand on the PhD research an the consequences of environmental change on butterfly diversity.

The increasing impact from environmental and climate change on the diversity and stability of assemblages, makes assessing compositional trends important in contributing to the identification and development of indicator species as representatives of environmental and climate change. 

 
There are research opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate research on the standardised monitoring of this assemblage and also to contribute to understanding some species life histories. For example, the life histories of the two most common fruit-feeding butterflies: Bebearia laetitioides and B. brunhilda are still unknown. 

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Semuliki National Park (labelled). The red areas represent surrounding forest loss within the last 25 years (www.terrapulse.com, 2021).

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Charaxes hadrianus - this is a digitally enhanced National Museum of Scotland specimen. One of 41 species of Charaxes recorded at the park. 

General resources:

Kind permission to use images have been provided by Lepidoptera Collections Department, The Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium  https://www.africamuseum.be/ and from the publishers of The Butterflies of the world series: Goecke and Evers, Keltern, Germany http://www.goeckeevers.de/

The African Butterfly Research Institute (ABRI), Nairobi, Kenya. One of the most comprehensive collection of Afrotropical butterflies, which includes over 98% of described species. An unsurpassed resource for Semuliki National Park butterfly specimens, including many of the subspecies found at Semuliki. The link below provides information and contact details.

https://www.lepsocafrica.org/?p=activities&s=regions

The Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium. Lepidoptera collections department. Many Lepidoptera type specimens from the museum collection have been digitised and can be accessed here https://www.africamuseum.be/en/research/collections_libraries/biology/collections/lepidoptera.

Specimens from this museum have been primarily collected from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These specimens

are therefore pertinent to the species found at Semuliki with its Guineo-Congolian influenced fauna and flora. Specimens from the Lepidoptera collections are also represented in the book 'Papillons du Zaire' referenced belwo.

General references and site links:

Berger, L.A., (1981). Papillons du Zaire, Weissenbruch, Brussels.

Davenport, T.R.D. & Howard, P. (1996). Semliki National Park Biodiversity Report. Forest Dept., Kampala.

Davenport, T.R.D., (2001). 'The Butterflies of Uganda - an annotated catalogue'. Wildlife Conservation Society, Tanzania.

               

Davenport, T.R.D. (2003).  'Endemic butterflies of the Albertine Rift - an annotated checklist'. Wildlife Conservation Society, Tanzania. 

Dhungel, B. & Wahlberg, N. (2018). Molecular systematics of the subfamily Limenitidinae (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). PeerJ 6:e4311; DOI10.7717/peerj.4311. Shedding some light on phylogenetic genera relationships of the Limenitidinae subfamily using gene sequencing analysis.​

Szabolcs, S., et al., (2020). Checklist of butterflies (Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea) of Uganda. Available online from the African Butterfly Database: abdb-africa.org.

Williams, M. C., (2015). 'Checklist of the butterflies of Uganda'. Available from the author (mark.williams@up.ac.za).

Williams, M. C., (2023). Classification of the Afrotropical butterflies to generic level. Metamorphosis 26: 102-108. This website will follow the taxonomic classification of Afrotropical butterflies as presented here.

 

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