Treading the Wallacean shortfall for an endemic, iconic and threatened butterfly

Dr Shuang Xing1, Mr Tsun Fung  Au1,2, Ms Pauline Dufour1, Dr Wenda Cheng1, Mr Felix  Landry Yuan1, Prof Fenghai Jia3, Prof Lien Van Vu4, Prof Min Wang5, Dr Timothy  Bonebrake1

1School of Biological Sciences, The University Of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, 2Department of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington, United States , 3Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nan Chang, China, 4Vietnam National Museum of Nature, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, Hanoi, Vietnam, 5Department of Entomology, College of Natural Resources & Environment, South China Agricultural University,, Guangzhou, China

With increasing pressures from climate change, deforestation, as well as species harvesting, conservation efforts must balance deficiencies in distribution data for species, i.e. the Wallacean shortfall, with the risk of increasing accessibility of the distribution to potential poachers. The Golden Kaiser-I-Hind (Teinopalpus aureus) is a conspicuous butterfly restricted to high elevations in southern China, Vietnam and Laos listed as data deficient in IUCN but also popular in trade markets. Based on collected species occurrence information, we assessed multiple threats to the species as well as its conservation status with respect to local laws and regulations. Using species distribution modeling, we found a high threat of climate change to T. aureus habitat suitability and high levels of deforestation experienced in parts of the species distribution over the past decade. Online market surveys revealed that specimens of T. aureus are available for sale at high prices, indicating potential threats form specimen collection. Facing multiple threats, more than half of the locations documented for T. aureus are outside protected areas. While across countries, protection status varies significantly as in China they are highly protected by law, in Vietnam they receive moderate protection, and in Laos there is no protection. These results together demonstrate the importance of distribution data for informing conservation strategies for threatened species while highlighting trade-offs inherent in not making location information widely available. International cooperation is required for the monitoring, evaluation and protection of cross-border species under multiple pressures that are becoming particularly acute in the biodiversity hotspots of Asia.


Shuang is a postdoctoral researcher working on conservation of tropical biodiversity under global change at the University of Hong Kong. She aims to understand the vulnerability of species and ecosystems to multiple threats including climate change, deforestation and wildlife trade. She loves exploring nature and observing diverse and unique creatures inhabiting different environments and is particularly interested in studying trait ecology at multiple scales with evolutionary insights. Her research focuses on distribution of butterflies and moths along environmental gradients and how tropical biodiversity may response to climate changes. Her current research interests also include wildlife trade and conservation forensic sciences, specifically focused on threatened species such as endangered butterflies and pangolins.

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