Objective Butterflies serve as a vital environmental indicator, which are highly sensitive to ecological shifts induced by human activities. As urbanization intensifies, the diversity of butterflies faces escalating threats. The abundance and composition of butterfly communities are profoundly influenced by landscape characteristics. Consequently, butterflies are frequently adopted as model organisms to elucidate strategies for landscape planning and habitat management in eco-friendly urban areas, mitigating adverse impacts on urban biodiversity caused by human activities. Numerous international researches have investigated the feasibility of enhancing butterfly diversity through urban landscape construction, while some developed nations have transformed theoretical insights into practical implementation. China has a relatively weak research foundation in relevant fields, necessitating urgent exploration of methods tailored to its national conditions for constructing urban butterfly habitats.
Methods This research establishes a comprehensive theoretical foundation for the research on butterfly habitat landscape based on literature review. By analyzing successful experience in butterfly and habitat conservation from the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US), the research conducts a comparative assessment of butterfly conversation status between China and other nations, culminating in a proposed strategy for constructing butterfly ecological landscape. Taking the southern Jiangsu region as an example, the research develops ecological landscape application models for two selected butterfly groups.
Results The literature review underscores three pivotal levels of butterfly habitat conservation: ensuring habitat area and connectivity, constructing high-quality habitats with landscape heterogeneity, and integrating varied landscape scales to maximize conservation efficacy for diverse butterfly species. Consequently, safeguarding urban butterfly habitats necessitates securing habitat areas both surrounding and within cities through macro-level planning while establishing high-quality habitat landscape at small and medium scales. International research on landscape element characteristics, layout design and maintenance provides a theoretical underpinning for the construction of butterfly ecological landscape. Through case studies of the UK and the US, the research scrutinizes the construction methods and conservation measures of the two nations for butterfly habitat. The UK, emphasizing landscape reforestation, employs habitat construction methods such as scrapes, seeding, plug-planting, and butterfly bank. The US, particularly in the conservation of the Monarch butterflies, implements universal butterfly conservation education. Comparative analysis reveals substantial differences in landscape types, user groups, and functional requirements among Chinese cities and cities in developed countries. Based on China’s national conditions, the research explores the path of “species selection – site selection – elements matching – landscape management – science popularization” for constructing butterfly ecological landscape. Taking the southern Jiangsu region as an example, the research develops the application models of ecological landscape for Papilioninae and Satyrinae butterflies. Landscape elements catering to Papilioninae spp. such as Papilio bianor with Rutaceae plants as host and Sericinus montelus with Aristolochiaceae plants as host, comprise open sunny spaces, honey source plants, host plants, shoals, and gravel roads, suitable for deployment in open activity areas of public green spaces. Landscape elements for Satyrinae spp. such as Lethe syrcis with Poaceae bamboos as host and Ypthima baldus with grasses as host, encompass bamboo forests, gravel roads, stones, deciduous layers, and honey plants, suitable for residential green spaces, country parks, and urban forests.
Conclusion China’s expansive territory and ecological diversity yield varying natural conditions and butterfly species nationwide, necessitating diverse butterfly ecological landscapes. Nevertheless, there are commonalities in function, structure, and elements in butterfly ecological landscapes. In view of this, establishing a landscape model may help mitigate technical and knowledge barriers and facilitate broader application. The research proposes that future efforts should focus on refining the theoretical foundation, practical implementation, public management policies, and public cooperation to formulate a comprehensive urban butterfly and habitat conservation strategy. Moreover, the research also identifies current challenges and future research directions, such as the limited role of small and medium-sized ecological landscapes in biodiversity conservation, the difficulty in establishing stable populations of target butterfly species in artificial habitats, and the interaction between human and wildlife in urban landscape.