Designing a network for butterfly habitat restoration

MCINTIRE, E. J. B., SCHULTZ, C. B. and CRONE, E. E. (2007), Designing a network for butterfly habitat restoration: where individuals, populations and landscapes interact. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44: 725–736.

The paper identifies a method for selecting restoration sites in highly fragmented landscape for federally endangered butterfly in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The authors designed and ran a spatially explicit landscape model to identify priority restoration areas. The model had four components: habitat maps (current and potential), butterfly movement, reproduction (affected by patch quality) and mortality. The authors found that connectivity would be achievable within the constraints of availability of patches for restoration, complex movement behaviors, realistic habitat quality estimates, social momentum and economic costs. The social and economic costs were simply referring to the fact that some potential habitat exists on private land but the authors argue that there are social and economic factors that make this an unlikely option.
Their method highlighted the importance of considering population dynamics in connectivity and that connectivity depends on population size within each patch, not merely patch location, patch size and movement behavior. This finding demonstrates the benefit of using complex models to prioritize restoration patches, rather than typical methods land managers use in prioritization (patch size and adjacency to other patches).
The author’s use of a 25 year prediction of population dynamics was smart, but they did not consider future climate change scenarios on the fate of the wetlands and upland grasslands and how that may impact the population. Creating room for migration may also be an essential conservation strategy when prioritizing restoration and acquisition beyond the 25 year time frame.

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