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Diversity 2018, 10(3), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/d10030094

Water Availability Coincides with Population Declines for an Endangered Butterfly

W. K. Kellogg Biological Station, Department of Integrative Biology, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, MI 49060, USA
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Received: 12 June 2018 / Revised: 7 August 2018 / Accepted: 16 August 2018 / Published: 20 August 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Butterfly Conservation)
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Abstract

As global climate change causes population declines across numerous taxa, it becomes critical to understand the specific pathway by which climatic and anthropogenic factors influence population size. Water availability is a key environmental condition that links climate and humans to species response, especially for rare or threatened butterflies that are highly sensitive to changes in climate and the surrounding landscape. We use the wetland-dependent endangered St. Francis’ satyr butterfly (Neonympha mitchellii francisci) to test how changes in water availability affect population size via changes in host plant growth. We show that long-term declines in water availability are directly linked to a decline in host plant growth and contributed to a population decrease of 95% for St. Francis’ satyrs in the past decade, threatening the persistence of the species. Recent restoration work, which includes efforts to increase water availability via hardwood removal, has been successful in increasing population numbers. Many butterflies are broadly dependent on water availability and flow, and only by understanding the specific pathway that directly links water availability to species response can we make effective conservation plans to prepare for the altered water conditions of the future. View Full-Text
Keywords: Neonympha mitchellii francisci; population decline; precipitation; St. Francis’ satyr; butterfly; temperature; water flow; restoration Neonympha mitchellii francisci; population decline; precipitation; St. Francis’ satyr; butterfly; temperature; water flow; restoration
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Cayton, H.L.; Haddad, N.M. Water Availability Coincides with Population Declines for an Endangered Butterfly. Diversity 2018, 10, 94.

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