Butterfly communities in remnant and reconstructed prairies in Central Iowa, U.S.A

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2003-01-01
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Shepherd, Stephanie
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Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
Abstract

Reconstructing prairie habitat is one of the most promising techniques for conserving the imperiled prairie ecosystem and its associated organisms. However, the degree to which reconstructed prairies function like remnant prairies has not been fully determined. Here, we examine butterflies as possible indicators of a reconstructed prairie's similarity to remnant prairies in the same areas. Butterflies are closely associated with the plant community and many prairie endemic butterfly species are declining with the loss and degradation of prairie. We found that at the community-level, adult butterflies in central Iowa were only limited indicators of reconstruction vegetative quality (similarity to remnants). This result is attributed to the high level of mobility of adult butterflies and the pre-emptive loss of many of the habitat-sensitive butterflies from the small highly degraded prairies of central Iowa. Our efforts to reintroduce declining prairie endemic Speyeria idalia (Regal Fritillary) to a large-scale prairie reconstruction have produced preliminary results that suggest that reconstructed prairie may provide adequate habitat for short-term (one season) occupancy. Whether these reconstructed ecosystems are capable of supporting viable reproduction populations in the long-term will be determined in the future. It is concluded that reconstructed prairie, while not providing the same quality of butterfly habitat as remnants prairie, they are serving as adequate refuges for the butterfly community as a whole and for some prairie endemic butterfly species.

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Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2003