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Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 5–6, pp 929–941 | Cite as

Assessing a farmland set-aside conservation program for an endangered butterfly: USDA State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) for the Karner blue butterfly

  • Paula Kleintjes Neff
  • Christina Locke
  • Eric Lee-Mӓder
ORIGINAL PAPER

Abstract

Private lands provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, but only recently have farm-based conservation programs focused on at-risk, invertebrate species. The USDA Conservation Reserve Program State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (CRP-SAFE) is one of the first federal programs to do so with a Wisconsin-based initiative for the US federally endangered Karner blue butterfly (KBB). This study is the first to evaluate how well the KBB-SAFE provides suitable habitat for the Karner and other butterflies. It also provides a critical foundation for better understanding the potential of new USDA programs that create pollinator habitat including for declining species such as the Monarch butterfly. Here we compare data (2009–2014) on assemblages of grassland communities, blooming floral resource availability, and abundance and richness of butterflies, between KBB-SAFE and native prairie sites. We found that KBB-SAFE and native sites had distinctly different forb species assemblages, with SAFE sites having fewer native blooming species available during the first flight of the KBB yet similar availability during second flight. Butterfly abundance was ultimately greater on native sites compared to SAFE sites, but richness was comparable between sites. We conclude that KBB-SAFE can provide habitat for many grassland species, and serve as surrogate KBB habitat. We provide straightforward management recommendations designed to better meet the needs of the Karner blue and other sensitive butterfly species and we provide further evidence that increased abundance and richness of native forbs and grasses on land formerly used for agriculture can provide habitat for butterflies adapted to early successional habitats.

Keywords

Butterfly richness Endangered butterfly Butterfly conservation Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands Native seed mixes Karner blue butterfly Lycaeides melissa samuelis 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful for the support of USDA FSA and NRCS staff throughout the project: Andrew Bourget, Ryan Galbreith, Terri Pollei Klein, Jennifer Roetter and John Sippl; the landowners who graciously allowed us to do research on their property; the West Wisconsin Land Trust staff Rick Remington and Jane Anklam, and WDNR KBB Recovery Coordinator Robert Hess. We also thank the following UW-Eau Claire undergraduates for their field work assistance: Jack Eaton, Jacob Henden, David Hon, Aaron Irber, Matt Morris, Otto Renner, Mark Sutton, Brianna Stanton, Chase Stoffel, Alexandra Tworek and Joseph Weirich. We thank Evan Weiher for analytical assistance, the Prairie Biotic Research, Inc. Small Grant Program and the UW-Eau Claire Office of Research and Sponsored Projects Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates Program. We also appreciate the constructive feedback offered by our anonymous reviewers.

Funding

Funding was provided by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire ORSP and Prairie Biotic Research, Inc.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10841_2017_32_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (538 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 538 KB)

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Wisconsin-Eau ClaireEau ClaireUSA
  2. 2.MadisonUSA
  3. 3.Xerces Society for Invertebrate ConservationSalish Sea Regional OfficeWhidbey IslandUSA

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