Assessing population status and identifying key habitat requirements for Parnassius butterflies in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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2014-01-01
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Szcodronski, Kimberly
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Diane M. Debinski
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Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
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Identifying specific vegetation characteristics that influence the presence of butterfly species is essential for determining how habitat and phenology changes may affect these populations in the future. Two montane meadow butterfly species, Parnassius clodius and Parnassius smintheus, were investigated to identify patterns of occupancy relating to habitat variables in montane meadows of Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming, United States. A series of presence-absence surveys were conducted in 41 mesic to xeric meadow sites during the Parnassius flight season (June - July 2013) to estimate occupancy and detection probabilities of both species. According to the null constant parameter model, detection probabilities were consistently high at 0.75 for P. clodius and P. smintheus. Occupancy varied considerably, with P. clodius occupancy at 0.78, and P. smintheus at a far lower occupancy of 0.10. P. clodius, the more common Parnassius in the ecosystem, occurred in 11 medium-sized populations (average 25 butterflies observed/survey) distributed across ~ 125,250 ha. The remaining 21 populations were categorized as small (average 3 butterflies observed/survey) and may be dependent on the larger populations for long-term viability. Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) was the most important habitat indicator for both P. clodius and P. smintheus. The occupancy of P. clodius had a strong negative correlation with the presence of A. tridentata, whereas the occupancy of P. smintheus had a positive correlation with A. tridentata. Additional research to estimate colonization and extinction rates would be valuable in understanding the long-term viability of these populations.

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Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2014