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Effects of managing semi-natural grassland buffers on butterflies

Abstract

Butterflies are important components of biodiversity in grassland ecosystems and provide ecosystem services such as pollination. Although agricultural intensification has led to a scarcity of native grassland habitats within most agricultural landscapes of North America, fragmented remnants and semi-natural habitats may support diverse communities, including butterflies, as long as vital resources such as host plants are available. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Conservation Reserve Program practice CP33 Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds (USDA 2004) provides semi-natural grassland habitat in agricultural landscapes, but a knowledge gap exists about impacts of prescribed disturbance (e.g. burning or disking) on butterflies. We monitored butterfly habitat and butterfly communities on experimentally manipulated CP33 grassland buffers in Clay County, Mississippi from 2007 to 2009. Disturbance guild butterfly species richness did not differ among treatments. However, disturbance guild abundance was positively affected by disking in both the first and second growing seasons following disking, and the magnitude of this response varied between years. Effects of burning on disturbance guild abundance did not differ from the control treatment. There were no treatment differences for grassland guild butterfly abundance and species richness suggesting that periodic disturbance does not unduly impact grassland-associated butterflies in the southeastern US. Our results support current USDA practice standards that require periodic disturbance during the 10-year contract, but restrict the disturbance to 1/3 or 1/4 of grassland buffer area in a given year.

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Acknowledgments

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

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Correspondence to S. K. Riffell.

Appendix

Appendix

Detected butterfly species and guild classification

Disturbance Guild American Lady (V. virginiensis), American Snout (Libytheana carinenta), Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), Common Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus communis), Checkered White (Pontia protodice), Clouded Sulphur/Orange Sulfur (C. philodice/C. eurytheme), Cloudless Sulphur (P. sennae), Common Buckeye (J. coenia), Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia), Eastern Tailed-Blue (C. comyntas), Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), Little Yellow (P. lisa), Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus), Monarch (Danaus plexippus), Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), Sleepy Orange (A. nicippe), Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia).

Grassland Guild Clouded Skipper (Lerema accius), Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes), Delaware Skipper (A. logan), Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris), Eufala Skipper (Lerodea eufala), Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus), Sachem (Atalopedes campestris), Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis), Southern Cloudywing (Thorybes bathyllus), Southern Skipperling (Copaeodes minima), Swarthy Skipper (Nastra lherminier), Tawny-Edged Skipper (Polites themistocles), Whirlabout (Polites vibex).

Forest Guild Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus), Hackberry Emperor (A. celtis), Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius), Olive/Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus gryneus), Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis), Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops), Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis), Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), Tawny Emporer (Asterocampa clyton), Viceroy (Limenitis archippus).

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Dollar, J.G., Riffell, S.K. & Burger, L.W. Effects of managing semi-natural grassland buffers on butterflies. J Insect Conserv 17, 577–590 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-012-9543-7

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Keywords

  • Butterflies
  • Disking
  • Grassland
  • Prescribed burning