Influence of habitat quality and resource density on breeding-season female monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus movement and space use in north-central USA agroecosystem landscapes

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Fisher, Kelsey
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Bradbury, Steven
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The Department of Entomology seeks to teach the study of insects, their life-cycles, and the practicalities in dealing with them, for use in the fields of business, industry, education, and public health. The study of entomology can be applied towards evolution and ecological sciences, and insects’ relationships with other organisms & humans, or towards an agricultural or horticultural focus, focusing more on pest-control and management.

The Department of Entomology was founded in 1975 as a result of the division of the Department of Zoology and Entomology.

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Natural Resource Ecology and Management
The Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management is dedicated to the understanding, effective management, and sustainable use of our renewable natural resources through the land-grant missions of teaching, research, and extension.
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Pollinator Working Group
To help meet the challenge of protecting pollinators, several faculty and staff at Iowa State University (ISU) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship formed the Iowa Pollinator Conservation Working Group (IPCWG) in 2013. This group reflects a partnership with colleagues and stakeholders from across the state. Members include scientists and educators with a focus on pest management, and members studying novel ways to conserve pollinators and other insects within an agricultural landscape. Initially, this group was formed to help update and apprise members of rapid advances in the science and regulation of pesticides that can affect pollinators. However, advances in the science of pollinator biology and ecology extend beyond protecting them from pesticides. These advancements create new opportunities through outreach and education to improve our support pollinator protection efforts in a variety of settings.
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1. The eastern North American monarch butterfly is at risk of quasi-extinction due, in part, to the loss of breeding habitat in agricultural landscapes of the USA Midwest. Because adult females are not patch residents, egg abundance and distribution across the landscape are a function of their perceptual range, flight directionality and flight step lengths. Conservation actions that account for habitat use in agricultural landscapes can enhance functional connectivity. 2. Field-captured females (n = 114) were released in a 64-ha area containing restored prairies, grass-dominated fields and crop fields in Floyd County, Iowa, USA, and two 1,000 m linear north–south sections of grass-dominated roadside along secondary roads (~35 ha) with different proximity to prairie habitat in rural Story County, Iowa. Radio-tagged or untagged monarchs were released in areas with high density, low density and zero density of forage and oviposition resources, as well as on habitat edges between high-and zero-density habitats. Monarchs were observed for 1 hr. Radio-tagged individuals that flew beyond visual detection were relocated using handheld radiotelemetry. 3. Monarchs moved within and between habitat classes and typically performed upwind search behaviour. Monarchs successfully located resources, with some flying over 500 m to find high-density areas, providing evidence that the monarch's perceptual distance is >100 m. Regardless of habitat class or field site, most step lengths were <50 m, and turn angles were directional. Large steps (≥50 m) crossing habitat boundaries occurred with approximately half of the monarchs, which may indicate initiation of long-range searches for suitable habitat, consistent with their vagile behaviour. Establishing habitat patches 50 m apart in agricultural landscapes would facilitate efficient movement. 4. Synthesis and applications. This study provides an extensive dataset of directly observed breeding-season monarch butterflies to assess the utilization of agricultural landscapes. Documentation of step lengths >50 m in complex, agricultural landscapes would not have been possible without the aid of radiotelemetry. Results provide improved estimates of perceptual range and flight patterns within and between habitat patches that support models that simulate natural population dynamics to enable conservation planning at a landscape scale. Results provide improved estimates of perceptual range and flight patterns within and between habitat patches that support models that simulate natural population dynamics to enable conservation planning at a landscape scale.
This article is published as Fisher, Kelsey E., and Steven P. Bradbury. "Influence of habitat quality and resource density on breeding‐season female monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) movement and space use in north‐central USA agroecosystem landscapes." Journal of Applied Ecology 59 (2022): 431-443. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.14061. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.