Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 171–178 | Cite as

Evaluating butterflies as surrogates for birds and plants in semi-natural grassland buffers

  • Jolie G. Dollar
  • Sam RiffellEmail author
  • Heidi L. Adams
  • L. Wes BurgerJr.


Semi-natural grasslands can support diverse faunal and floral communities, including grassland birds, beneficial insects, and native wildflowers. Monitoring biodiversity of this type of ecosystem is important to assess abundance and richness of grassland-associated species, evaluate success of establishing grasslands, and to assess overall ecosystem health. We tested butterflies as surrogates for birds and plants to assess establishment success of semi-natural grassland buffers in north-central Mississippi using Spearman rank correlation (Spearman’s ρ). Disturbance and grassland butterfly guilds were generally not suitable surrogates for grassland bird metrics, non-grassland bird metrics, or nest density metrics. Butterflies did have consistent positive correlations with plant species richness and forb metrics, as well as consistent negative correlations with grass metrics, but these correlations were generally smaller than what is considered suitable to serve as surrogates. In general, butterflies were not suitable surrogates for birds or plants in semi-natural grassland buffers.


Birds Butterflies Grass buffers Plants Species richness Surrogate 



Our work would not have been possible without the cooperation of B. Bryan Farms and Prairie Wildlife, LLC. This research was funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service—Agricultural Wildlife Conservation Center (NRCS-AWCC). The Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, the Forest and Wildlife Research Center and College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University also provided support.

Supplementary material

10841_2014_9626_MOESM1_ESM.docx (126 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 126 kb)


  1. Adams HL (2011) Agricultural conservation buffers for breeding grassland birds in Eastern Mississippi, Dissertation, Mississippi State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams HL, Burger LW, Riffell S (2013) Disturbance and landscape effects on avian nests in agricultural conservation buffers. J Wildl Manag 77:1213–1220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aviron S, Herzog F, Klaus I, Schupbach B, Jeanneret P (2010) Effects of wildflower strip quality, quantity, and connectivity on butterfly diversity in a Swiss arable landscape. Restor Ecol 19:500–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benson TJ, Dinsmore JJ, Hohman WL (2007) Responses of plants and arthropods to burning and disking of riparian habitats. J Wildl Manag 71:1949–1957CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blair RB (1999) Birds and butterflies along an urban gradient: surrogate taxa for assessing biodiversity? Ecol Appl 9:164–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bouseman JK, Sternburg JG, Wiker JR (2006) Field guide to the skipper butterflies of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey, ChampaignGoogle Scholar
  7. Buckland ST, Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Laake JL, Borchers DL, Thomas L (2001) Introduction to distance sampling. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Conover RR, Dinsmore SJ, Burger LW (2011) Effects of conservation practices on bird nest density and survival in intensive agriculture. Agric Ecosyst Environ 141:126–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davros NM, Debinski DM, Reeder KR, Hohman WL (2006) Butterflies and Continuous Conservation Reserve Program filter strips: landscape considerations. Wildl Soc B 34:936–943CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Debinski DM, Ray C, Saveraid EH (2001) Species diversity and the scale of the landscape mosaic: do scales of movement and patch size affect diversity. Biol Conserv 98:179–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dollar JG (2011) Responses of butterfly and forb communities to management of semi-natural grassland buffers. Dissertation, Mississippi State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  12. Dollar JG, Riffell SK, Burger LW (2013) Effects of managing semi-natural grassland buffers on butterflies. J Insect Conserv 17:577–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Field RG, Gardiner T, Mason CF, Hill J (2005) Agri-environment schemes and butterflies: the utilization of 6 m grass margins. Biodivers Conserv 14:1969–1976CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fleishman D, Murphy DD (2009) A realistic assessment of the indicator potential of butterflies and other charismatic taxonomic groups. Conserv Biol 23:1109–1116PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Flynn DFB, Gogol-Prokurat M, Nogeire T, Molinari N, Richers BT, Lin BB, Simpson N, Mayfield MM, DeClerck F (2009) Loss of functional diversity under land use intensification across multiple taxa. Ecol Lett 12:22–33PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Glassberg J (1999) Butterflies through binoculars. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Hale S, Riffell S, Burger LW, Adams H, Dollar JG (2011) Fire ant response to management of native grass conservation buffers. Am Midl Nat 166:283–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Johnson K (1986) Prairie and plains disclimax and disappearing butterflies in the central United States. Atala 10–12:20–30Google Scholar
  19. Kremen C (1992) Assessing the indicator properties of species assemblages for natural areas monitoring. Ecol Appl 2:203–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kurtz JC, Jackson LE, Fisher WS (2001) Strategies for evaluating indicators based on guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development. Ecol Indic 1:49–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lombard AT, Cowling RM, Pressey RL, Rebelo AG (2003) Effectiveness of land classes as surrogates for species in conservation planning for the Cape Floristic Region. Biol Conserv 112:45–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lovell S, Hamer M, Slotow R, Herbert D (2007) Assessment of congruency across invertebrate taxa and taxonomic levels to identify potential surrogates. Biol Conserv 139:113–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moffat M, McPhillips N (1993) Management for butterflies in the northern Great Plains: a literature review and guidebook for land managers. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, PierreGoogle Scholar
  24. Nelson SM (2007) Butterflies (Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea) as potential ecological indicators of riparian quality in the semi-arid western United States. Ecol Indic 7:469–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. NRCS (2010) PLANTS Database. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Accessed 22 April 2010
  26. Ockinger E, Smith HG (2007) Semi-natural grasslands as population sources for pollinating insects in agricultural landscapes. J Appl Ecol 44:50–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Opler PA (1981) Management of prairie habitat for insect conservation. J Nat Areas Assoc 1:3–6Google Scholar
  28. Opler PA, Krizek GO (1984) Butterflies East of the Great Plains. The John Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  29. Opler PA, Malikul V (1992) A field guild to Eastern butterflies. Houghton Mifflin Company, BostonGoogle Scholar
  30. Packard S, Mutel CF (eds) (1997) The tallgrass restoration handbook for prairies, savannas, and woodlands. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  31. Peacock E, Schauwecker T (eds) (2003) Blackland prairies of the gulf coastal plain: nature, culture, and sustainability. University of Alabama Press, TuscaloosaGoogle Scholar
  32. Pearman PB, Weber D (2007) Common species determine richness patterns in biodiversity indicator taxa. Biol Conserv 138:109–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Peterjohn BG (2003) Agricultural landscapes: can they support healthy bird populations as well as farm products? Auk 120:14–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Peterjohn BG, Sauer JR, Link WA (1994) The 1992 and 1993 summary of the North American breeding bird survey. Bird Popul 2:46–61Google Scholar
  35. Pollard E, Yates TJ (1993) Monitoring butterflies for ecology and conservation. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Prendergast JR, Eversham BC (1997) Species richness covariance in higher taxa: empirical tests of the biodiversity indicator concept. Ecography 20:210–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Reeder KF, Debinski DM, Danielson BJ (2005) Factors affecting butterfly use of filter strips in Midwestern USA. Agric Ecosyst Environ 109:40–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Reyers B, Wessels KJ, van Jaarsveld AS (2002) An assessment of biodiversity surrogacy options in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Afr Zool 37:185–195Google Scholar
  39. Ricketts TH, Dinerstein E, Olson DO, Loucks C (1999) Who’s where in North America? Patterns of species richness and the utility of indicator taxa for conservation. Bioscience 49:369–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ries L, Debinski DM, Wieland ML (2001) Conservation value of roadside prairie restoration to butterfly communities. Conserv Biol 15:401–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Riffell SK, Keas BE, Burton TM (2003) Birds in Great lakes coastal wet meadows: is landscape context important? Landsc Ecol 18:95–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roberts-Pichette P, Gillespie L (1999) Terrestrial vegetation biodiversity monitoring protocols. EMAN Occasional Paper Series, Report No. 9. Ecological Monitoring Coordinating Office, Burlington, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  43. Samson FB, Knopf FL (1994) Prairie conservation: preserving North America’s most endangered ecosystem. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  44. Sarkar S, Margules C (2002) Operationalizing biodiversity for conservation planning. J Biosci 27:299–308PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. SAS Institute Inc. (2007) SAS/STAT 9.2 user’s guide. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, North CarolinaGoogle Scholar
  46. Scott JA (1986) The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  47. Shepherd S, Debinski DM (2005) Evaluation of isolated and integrated reconstructions as habitat for prairie butterflies. Biol Conserv 126:51–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith MD, Barbour PJ, Burger LW, Dinsmore SJ (2005) Breeding bird abundance and diversity in agricultural field borders in the Black Belt Prairie of Mississippi. Proc Ann Conf Southeast Assoc Fish Wildl Agencies 59:43–56Google Scholar
  49. Stoner K, Joern A (2004) Landscape vs. local habitat scale influences to insect communities from tallgrass prairie remnants. Ecol Appl 14:1306–1320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Su JC, Debinski DM, Jakubauskas ME, Kindscher K (2004) Beyond species richness: community similarity as a measure of cross-taxon congruence for coarse-filter conservation. Conserv Biol 18:167–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Swengel A (1993) Regal fritillary: a prairie royalty. Am Butterflies 1:4–9Google Scholar
  52. Swengel AB (1996) Effects of fire and hay management on abundance of prairie butterflies. Biol Conserv 76:73–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Swengel AB, Swengel SR (1997) Co-occurrence of prairie and barrens butterflies: applications to ecosystem management. J Insect Conserv 1:131–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Swengel AB, Swengel SR (1998) Tallgrass prairie butterflies and birds. In: Mac MJ, Opler PA, Pucket Haecker CE, Doran PD (eds) Status and trends of the Nation’s biological resources, vol 2. US Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey, pp 446–447Google Scholar
  55. Swengel SR, Swengel AB (1999) Correlations in abundance of grassland songbirds and prairie butterflies. Biol Conserv 90:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Thomas L, Buckland ST, Rexstad EA, 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 47:5–14PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. USDA (2004) Practice CP33 habitat buffers for upland wildlife. Farm Service Agency, Notice CRP-479, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  58. Vessby K, Soderstrom B, Glimskar A, Svensson B (2002) Species-richness correlations of six different taxa in Swedish seminatural grasslands. Conserv Biol 16:430–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Vickery PD, Tubaro PL, Cardoso da Silva JM, Peterjohn BG, Herkert JR, Cavalcanti RB (1999) Conservation of grassland birds in the Western Hemisphere. Stud Avian Biol 19:2–26Google Scholar
  60. Vogel JA, Debinski DM, Koford RR, Miller JR (2007) Butterfly responses to prairie restoration through fire and grazing. Biol Conserv 140:78–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 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
  62. Weaver JC (1994) Indicator species and scale of observation. Conserv Biol 9:939–942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Weibull A-C, Ostman O, Granqvist A (2003) Species richness in agroecosystems: the effect of landscape, habitat and farm management. Biodivers Conserv 12:1335–1355CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jolie G. Dollar
    • 1
  • Sam Riffell
    • 2
    Email author
  • Heidi L. Adams
    • 3
  • L. Wes BurgerJr.
    • 2
  1. 1.Community and Natural Resources - Land Grant DivisionAmerican Samoa Community CollegeMapusagaAmerican Samoa
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and AquacultureMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  3. 3.School of Forest ResourcesUniversity of Arkansas at MonticelloMonticelloUSA

Personalised recommendations