In joint work with the University of the Free State, we study how isolated mountains and rocky outcrops can help to preserve biodiversity. As study region we work in the grassland biome of the Eastern Free State Province in South Africa. In a first paper, now out in Biological Conservation, we present data on the butterflies present in this region.
We found that butterflies in the landscape matrix between the mountains were a nested subset of species from the mountains and outcrops, and there was little evidence that species with certain traits were limited to either habitat. This suggests that species can retreat to mountain refuges during harsh conditions and recolonise the surrounding matrix once conditions improve.
Ecological refuges such as these mountains and rocky outcrops can unify land-sharing and land-sparing because their targeted protection would support the persistence of species throughout wider landscapes.