Understanding Interactions Between Butterflies and their Floral Resources in Iowa Grasslands

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2014-04-15
Authors
Proescholdt, Toni
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Abstract

Grasslands provide habitat for many animal species and serve to improve soil and water quality. These ecosystem services have an impact on humans through economic, health, and aesthetic avenues. Given historic and ongoing losses of grasslands to row crop agriculture and development, it is essential to better understand the complex relationships between grassland animals and their environment in order to conserve and restore grassland habitat. This research focused on improving the understanding of interactions between grassland butterflies and their environment. Topics explored include landscape history and management (with an emphasis on the effect of fire as a management tool), nectar production, flower diversity, and butterfly abundance patterns and behavior. We analyzed butterfly activity in grassland plots as a function of floral resources (nectar volume and concentration). This research was conducted in three grassland types: 1) remnant prairies, 2) reconstructed prairies, and 3) moderately grazed cattle pastures. Within these grasslands, plant diversity and management varied. Flower diversity appears to affect butterfly abundance and behavior, and fire as maintenance is having an effect on nectar resources. This work will provide an improved understanding of the interactions between butterflies and their resources, and it will inform decision-makers interested in managing grasslands for pollinators.

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