Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 2719–2746 | Cite as

Untangling the effects of fire, grazing, and land-use legacies on grassland butterfly communities

  • Raymond A. MoranzEmail author
  • Diane M. Debinski
  • Devan A. McGranahan
  • David M. Engle
  • James R. Miller
Original Paper


Many grassland ecosystems are disturbance-dependent, having evolved under the pressures of fire and grazing. Restoring these disturbances can be controversial, particularly when valued resources are thought to be disturbance-sensitive. We tested the effects of fire and grazing on butterfly species richness and population density in an economically productive grassland landscape of the central U.S. Three management treatments were applied: (1) patch-burn graze—rotational burning of three spatially distinct patches within a pasture, and moderately-stocked cattle grazing (N = 5); (2) graze-and-burn—burning entire pasture every 3 years, and moderately-stocked cattle grazing (N = 4); and (3) burn-only—burning entire pasture every 3 years, but no cattle grazing (N = 4). Butterfly abundance was sampled using line transect distance sampling in 2008 and 2009, with six 100-m transects per pasture. Butterfly species richness did not respond to management treatment, but was positively associated with pre-treatment proportion of native plant cover. Population density of two prairie specialists (Cercyonis pegala and Speyeria idalia) and one habitat generalist (Danaus plexippus) was highest in the burn-only treatment, whereas density of one habitat generalist (Cupido comyntas) was highest in the patch-burn graze treatment. Treatment application affected habitat structural characteristics including vegetation height and cover of bare ground. Historic land uses have reduced native plant cover and permitted exotic plant invasion; for some butterfly species, these legacies had a greater influence than management treatments on butterfly density. Conservation of native insect communities in altered grasslands might require native plant restoration in addition to restoration of disturbance processes.


Butterflies Grazing Habitat management Invasive species Prairie Prescribed burning 



Akaike information criterion, corrected for finite sample sizes


Nonmetric multidimensional scaling



Funding for this project was through the Iowa State Wildlife Grants program grant T-1-R-15 in cooperation with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Technicians Meghan Kirkwood, Matthew Nielsen, Michael Rausch, Shannon Rusk, and Laura Winkler assisted in collection of data. We thank Karl Pazdernik and Dennis Lock for their assistance with statistical analyses. Special thanks go to research associate Ryan Harr for his efforts in managing almost every aspect of our research project. Finally, we pay our respects to the late Sheri Svehla for initiating our work in the field.


  1. Anderson RC (1990) The historic role of fire in the North American grassland. In: Collins SL, Wallace LL (eds) Fire in North American tallgrass prairies. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, pp 8–18Google Scholar
  2. Anderson RC (2006) Evolution and origin of the Central Grassland of North America: climate, fire, and mammalian grazers. J Torrey Bot Soc 133:626–647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Archibald S, Bond WJ, Stock WD, Fairbanks DHK (2005) Shaping the landscape: fire-grazer interactions in an African savanna. Ecol Appl 15:96–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Auckland JN, Debinski DM, Clark WR (2004) Survival, movement, and resource use of the butterfly Parnassius clodius. Ecol Entomol 29:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Axelrod DI (1985) Rise of the grassland biome in central North America. Bot Rev 51:163–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergman KO, Askling J, Ekberg O, Ignell H, Wahlman H, Milberg P (2004) Landscape effects on butterfly assemblages in an agricultural region. Ecography 27:619–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bond WJ (2008) What limits trees in C-4 grasslands and savannas? Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 39:641–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Branson DH, Joern A, Sword GA (2006) Sustainable management of insect herbivores in grassland ecosystems: new perspectives in grasshopper control. Bioscience 56:743–755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brower LP, Malcolm SB (1991) Animal migrations: endangered phenomena. Am Zool 31:265–276Google Scholar
  10. Brown JA, Boyce MS (1998) Line transect sampling of Karner blue butterflies (Lycaeides melissa samuelis). Environ Ecol Stat 5:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brudvig LA, Mabry CM, Miller JR, Walker TA (2007) Evaluation of central North American prairie management based on species diversity, life form, and individual species metrics. Conserv Biol 21:864–874PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buckland ST, Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Laake JL, Borchers DL, Thomas L (2001) Introduction to distance sampling: estimating abundance of biological populations. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  13. Bushnell Performance Optics ® (2004) Laser Rangefinder Yardage Pro® Sport 450®: user’s manual. Bushnell® Performance Optics, Overland ParkGoogle Scholar
  14. Christensen NL (1997) Managing for heterogeneity and complexity on dynamic landscapes. In: Pickett ST, Ostfeld RS, Shachak M, Likens GE (eds) The ecological basis of conservation. International Thomson Publishing, New York, pp 167–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Collins SL, Steinauer EM (1998) Disturbance, diversity, and species interactions in tallgrass prairie. In: Knapp AK, Briggs JM, Hartnett DC, Collins SL (eds) Grassland dynamics: long-term ecological research in tallgrass prairie. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 140–158Google Scholar
  16. Cook WM, Holt RD (2006) Fire frequency and mosaic burning effects on a tallgrass prairie ground beetle assemblage. Biodivers Conserv 15:2301–2323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Coppedge BR, Engle DM, Fuhlendorf SD, Masters RE, Gregory MS (2001) Landscape cover type and pattern dynamics in fragmented southern Great Plains grasslands, USA. Landsc Ecol 16:677–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Crawley MJ (2007) The R book. Wiley, ChichesterCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Curtin C, Western D (2008) Grasslands, people, and conservation: over-the-horizon learning exchanges between African and American pastoralists. Conserv Biol 22:870–877PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Daubenmire R (1959) A canopy-coverage method of vegetational analysis. Northwest Sci 33:43–64Google Scholar
  21. Davis JD, Debinski DM, Danielson BJ (2007) Local and landscape effects on the butterfly community in fragmented Midwest U.S.A. prairie habitats. Landsc Ecol 22:1341–1354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Davis JD, Hendrix SD, Debinski DM, Hemsley CJ (2008) Butterfly, bee and forb community composition and cross-taxon incongruence in tallgrass prairie fragments. J Insect Conserv 12:69–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Engle DM, Fuhlendorf SD, Roper A, Leslie DM (2008) Invertebrate community response to a shifting mosaic of habitat. Rangel Ecol Manag 61:55–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Erhardt A, Mevi-Schutz J (2009) Adult food resources in butterflies. In: Settele J, Shreeve T, Konvicka M, Van Dyck H (eds) Ecology of butterflies in Europe. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 9–16Google Scholar
  25. Foster D, Swanson F, Aber J, Burke I, Brokaw N, Tilman D, Knapp A (2003) The importance of land-use legacies to ecology and conservation. Bioscience 53:77–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fuhlendorf SD, Engle DM (2001) Restoring heterogeneity on rangelands: ecosystem management based on evolutionary grazing patterns. Bioscience 51:625–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fuhlendorf SD, Engle DM (2004) Application of the fire-grazing interaction to restore a shifting mosaic on tallgrass prairie. J Appl Ecol 41:604–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fuhlendorf SD, Harrell WC, Engle DM, Hamilton RG, Davis CA, Leslie DM (2006) Should heterogeneity be the basis for conservation? Grassland bird response to fire and grazing. Ecol Appl 16:1706–1716PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fuhlendorf SD, Engle DM, Kerby J, Hamilton R (2009) Pyric herbivory: rewilding landscapes through the recoupling of fire and grazing. Conserv Biol 23:588–598PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Heitzman JR, Heitzman JE (2006) Butterflies and moths of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson CityGoogle Scholar
  31. Helzer CJ, Steuter AA (2005) Preliminary effects of patch-burn grazing on a high-diversity prairie restoration. Ecol Restor 23:167–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kopper BJ, Margolies DC, Charlton RE (2001) Life history notes on the regal fritillary, Speyeria idalia (Drury) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), in Kansas tallgrass prairie. J Kans Entomol Soc 74:172–177Google Scholar
  33. Kruess A, Tscharntke T (2002) Grazing intensity and the diversity of grasshoppers, butterflies, and trap-nesting bees and wasps. Conserv Biol 16:1570–1580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kubo M, Kobayashi T, Kitahara M, Hayashi A (2009) Seasonal fluctuations in butterflies and nectar resources in a semi-natural grassland near Mt. Fuji, central Japan. Biodivers Conserv 18:229–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McGranahan DA (2008) Degradation and restoration in remnant tallgrass prairie: grazing history, soil carbon, and invasive species affect community composition and response to the fire-grazing interaction. Thesis, Iowa State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  36. McGranahan DA (2011) Species richness, fire spread, and structural heterogeneity in tallgrass prairie. Dissertation, Iowa State University, AmesGoogle Scholar
  37. McGranahan DA, Engle DM, Fuhlendorf SD, Winter SJ, Miller JR, Debinski DM (2012) Spatial heterogeneity across five rangelands managed with pyric-herbivory. J Appl Ecol. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2012.02168.x
  38. Moranz RA (2010) The effects of ecological management on tallgrass prairie butterflies and their nectar sources. Dissertation, Oklahoma State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  39. Motzkin G, Foster D, Allen A, Harrod J, Boone R (1996) Controlling site to evaluate history: vegetation patterns of a New England sand plain. Ecol Monogr 66:345–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Munguira ML, Garcia-Barros E, Cano JM (2009) Butterfly herbivory and larval ecology. In: Settele J, Shreeve T, Konvicka M, Van Dyck H (eds) Ecology of butterflies in Europe. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 43–54Google Scholar
  41. Oates MR (1995) Butterfly conservation within the management of grassland habitats. In: Pullin AS (ed) Ecology and conservation of butterflies. Chapman & Hall, New York, pp 98–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ockinger E, Smith HG (2006) Landscape composition and habitat area affects butterfly species richness in semi-natural grasslands. Oecologia 149:526–534PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Oksanen L (2009) Multivariate analysis of ecological communities in R: vegan tutorial. Accessed 24 July 2010
  44. Opler PA, Kelly L, Thomas N, Coordinators (2012) Butterflies and moths of North America. Accessed Nov 2011
  45. Panzer R (2003) Importance of in situ survival, recolonization, and habitat gaps in the postfire recovery of fire-sensitive prairie insect species. Nat Areas J 23:14–21Google Scholar
  46. Panzer R, Schwartz M (2000) Effects of management burning on prairie insect species richness within a system of small, highly fragmented reserves. Biol Conserv 96:363–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pillsbury FC, Miller JR, Debinski DM, Engle DM (2011) Another tool in the toolbox? Using fire and grazing to promote bird diversity in highly fragmented landscapes. Ecosphere 2:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pinheiro JC, Bates DM (2000) Mixed-effects models in S and S-PLUS. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pocewicz A, Morgan P, Eigenbrode SD (2009) Local and landscape effects on butterfly density in northern Idaho grasslands and forests. J Insect Conserv 13:593–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pollard E, Yates TJ (1993) Monitoring butterflies for ecology and conservation. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  51. Powell A, Busby WH, Kindscher K (2007) Status of the regal fritillary (Speyeria idalia) and effects of fire management on its abundance in northeastern Kansas, USA. J Insect Conserv 11:299–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Poyry J, Lindgren S, Salminen J, Kuussaari M (2005) Responses of butterfly and moth species to restored cattle grazing in semi-natural grasslands. Biol Conserv 122:465–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Poyry J, Luoto M, Paukkunen J, Pykala J, Raatikainen K, Kuussaari M (2006) Different responses of plants and herbivore insects to a gradient of vegetation height: an indicator of the vertebrate grazing intensity and successional age. Oikos 115:401–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. R Development Core Team (2010) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R foundation for statistical computing. Accessed 21 Aug 2010
  55. Reed CC (1997) Responses of prairie insects and other arthropods to prescription burns. Nat Areas J 17:380–385Google Scholar
  56. Reeder KF, Debinski DM, Danielson BJ (2005) Factors affecting butterfly use of filter strips in Midwestern USA. Agric Ecosyst Environ 109:40–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Robel RJ, Briggs JN, Dayton AD, Hulbert LC (1970) Relationship between visual obstruction measurements and weight of grassland vegetation. J Range Manag 23:295–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rudolph DC, Ely CA, Schaefer RR, Williamson JH, Thill RE (2006) The Diana fritillary (Speyeria diana) and great spangled fritillary (S. cybele): dependence on fire in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. J Lepid Soc 60:218–226Google Scholar
  59. Samson F, Knopf F (1994) Prairie conservation in North America. Bioscience 44:418–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. SAS Institute Inc (2008) SAS 9.2 TS Level 2M3. SAS Institute Inc., CaryGoogle Scholar
  61. Schneider C (2003) The influence of spatial scale on quantifying insect dispersal: an analysis of butterfly data. Ecol Entomol 28:252–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schultz CB, Dlugosch KM (1999) Nectar and hostplant scarcity limit populations of an endangered Oregon butterfly. Oecologia 119:231–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Scott JA (1986) The butterflies of North America: a natural history and field guide. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  64. Shepherd S, Debinski DM (2005) Evaluation of isolated and integrated prairie reconstructions as habitat for prairie butterflies. Biol Conserv 126:51–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. SPSS (2010) SPSS for Windows, Release 17.0.0. SPSS Inc., ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  66. Stohlgren TJ, Falkner MB, Schell LD (1995) A modified-Whittaker nested vegetation sampling method. Vegetatio 117:113–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Swengel AB (1996) Effects of fire and hay management on abundance of prairie butterflies. Biol Conserv 76:73–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Swengel S, Schlicht D, Olsen F, Swengel A (2011) Declines of prairie butterflies in the Midwestern USA. J Insect Conserv 15:327–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Thomas L, Buckland ST, Rexstad RB, Laake JL, Strindberg S, Hedley SL, Bishop JRB, Marques TA, Burnham KP (2010) Distance software: design and analysis of distance sampling surveys for estimating population size. J Appl Ecol 47:5–14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. USDA, NRCS (2012) The PLANTS Database ( Accessed 20 May 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA
  71. Vogel JA, Debinski DM, Koford RR, Miller JR (2007) Butterfly responses to prairie restoration through fire and grazing. Biol Conserv 140:78–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Vogel JA, Koford RR, Debinski DM (2010) Direct and indirect responses of tallgrass prairie butterflies to prescribed burning. J Insect Conserv 14:663–677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. WallisDeVries MF, Parkinson AE, Dulphy JP, Sayer M, Diana E (2007) Effects of livestock breed and grazing intensity on biodiversity and production in grazing systems. 4. Effects on animal diversity. Grass Forage Sci 62:185–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wiens JA (1974) Habitat heterogeneity and avian community structure in North American grasslands. Am Midl Nat 91:195–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raymond A. Moranz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Diane M. Debinski
    • 1
  • Devan A. McGranahan
    • 2
  • David M. Engle
    • 3
  • James R. Miller
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal BiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Environmental StudiesSewanee: The University of the SouthSewaneeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural Resource Ecology and ManagementOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  4. 4.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

Personalised recommendations