Montane Species

Montane species show strong ecologic affinities to the forest belt habitats of the EMS and therefore occur at lower altitudes than the alpine species. However, this biogeographical group is much less studied than the one of alpine disjunct species.

Fig. 1 Hypothetical distribution patterns of the alpine disjunct butterfly Erebia epiphron in Western Europe during the last glaciation. Redrawn from Schmitt et al. (2006)

A good example for a widespread montane species is represented by the butterfly Erebia euryale, which is a character species of the mountain forest biome of Southern Europe (Sonderegger 2005). Schmitt and Haubrich (2008) analysed allozyme patterns of 11 populations from four EMS (Pyrenees, Alps, Southern Carpathians, Rila) and found four well-supported groups (i.e., Pyrenees, Western Alps, Eastern Alps and Southeastern Europe, represented by Southern Carpathians and Rila). The genetic diversity of the populations was the highest in the Southeastern European group and decreased step-wise towards the West. Interestingly, the populations from Bulgaria and Romania were almost identical; therefore, the authors assume that they were not separated during the last ice age. In contrast, the differentiation among the three Western Alpine populations was considerable. Consequently, (1) the most important refugial area for this species has been located in Southeastern Europe including at least parts of the Carpathians and the Bulgarian mountains, (2) important refugial areas existed at the Southeastern or Eastern edge of the Alps, (3) scattered populations survived along the Southwestern Alps, and (4) relatively small populations have persisted at the foothills of the Pyrenees (Fig. 2). More studies in species of this distribution type are urgently needed to clarify whether the phylogeographic structure found in E. euryale, a character species of the European mountain forest biome, is representative for this biome as a whole or not.

Fig. 2 Hypothetical distribution pattern of the montane disjunct butterfly Erebia euryale in Europe during the last glaciation. Note that these centres only refer to the ones detected in this survey; thus, further centres of survival are possible and reliable, e.g., in peninsular Italy. Redrawn from Schmitt and Haubrich (2008)

Fig. 2 Hypothetical distribution pattern of the montane disjunct butterfly Erebia euryale in Europe during the last glaciation. Note that these centres only refer to the ones detected in this survey; thus, further centres of survival are possible and reliable, e.g., in peninsular Italy. Redrawn from Schmitt and Haubrich (2008)

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