By the time restoration had begun, the population had descended to such a low level that the need for restoration success had grown urgent. Then, in the same graphic, I observed resurrection right half of Fig 1a. Restoration success was in no way certain. I watched the surprising speed at which the population recovered. Our efforts resulted in a rare success at the intersection of science and endangered species conservation [ 9 ]. At the onset of my recovery, my father-in-law reminded me of my book project.
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Days before my accident, I had submitted a proposal likely the reason the nurse heard so much about rare butterflies in my early delirium. My father-in-law suggested that some of the best therapy during my recovery would be to begin writing that book. He was right.
It took my own path to recovery to reveal to me the decline and resurrection of St. As I assembled case after case, species after species, I discovered three things. First, most of the rarest butterflies are becoming rarer e. Second, nearly all of the rarest butterflies are dependent on natural disturbance. I assembled classic case studies Fig 1. In one, after over a century of scientists anguishing about its conservation, the Large Blue in southwest England Phengaris arion eutyphron went extinct. Only after overcoming fear of the harm cows might cause butterfly populations could new restoration include grazers.
With this knowledge, the reintroduction in England of another Large Blue subspecies from Sweden has been a remarkable success Fig 1c. Its rediscovered populations were small and declining. It was impossible to imagine restoring fire to incinerate plants and butterflies. As scientists and conservationists watched, small prairies succeeded to shrubland.
I want to be clear and distinguish natural from human-caused disturbance. In a meta-analysis of long-term Lepidopteran studies globally, Dirzo et al. Natural disturbances, however, maintain the open habitats in which many rare butterflies live. These areas include grasslands kept open by fire [ 17 ] or by herbivory [ 13 , 18 , 19 ], wetlands kept open by flooding [ 4 ], coastal dune formation [ 20 ], and forest boundaries kept by storms [ 21 ].
Disturbance management must be a strong part of the conservation repertoire for rare butterflies. My third discovery was that decline was reversed only after recognition of one uncomfortable and seemingly incompatible truth: we have to kill some butterflies to save butterflies Fig 1. By allowing or even creating disturbance in some fraction of the habitats where there are rare butterflies, some are killed now [ 3 , 4 , 15 , 22 ]. Simultaneously, disturbance that is at first harmful then rehabilitates habitats to support populations going forward.
A caveat is that all populations cannot be disturbed simultaneously. Large and persistent metapopulations must encompass areas with butterflies that produce colonists for new habitats.
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Could lessons learned in conservation of the rarest butterflies be applied to other insects in decline? Insect conservation requires halting or reversing habitat loss, the sure reason for most of these declines. The lesson learned from the rarest butterflies is that habitat loss includes the loss of natural ecosystem processes such as disturbance [ 25 ]. Recovery of the rarest butterflies, and assuredly for other insects, must include restoration of natural disturbance. I thank my lab and my collaborators for all their thought and effort in advancing research and conservation of the rarest butterflies.
Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work. Download: PPT. Fig 1. Population sizes for a St. Supporting information. S1 Data. Annual estimates of population size of St. Acknowledgments I thank my lab and my collaborators for all their thought and effort in advancing research and conservation of the rarest butterflies. References 1. View Article Google Scholar 2.
Refsnider R. Federal Register Distribution, population structure, and habitat use of the endangered St. American Midland Naturalist. View Article Google Scholar 4.
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Habitat restoration as a recovery tool for a disturbance-dependent butterfly, the endangered St. Butterfly Conservation in North America: Springer; Dispersal via stream corridors structures populations of the endangered St. Journal of Insect Conservation. View Article Google Scholar 6.
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Eating 5. Flying 6. Communicating 7. Varying 8. Evolving 9. Dick Vane-Wright is a specialist on the taxonomy, evolution and classification of butterflies. Through his knowledge about the distribution of species, he has also been involved in evaluating priorities for the conservation of biological diversity. Dick has written numerous scientific papers and books on the subject and continues to try to bring a love of these enchanting insects to a wider audience. Once you've read this book, even the cabbage white will never look the same again.
Newsletter Google 4. Help pages. Prothero Michael J. Benton Richard Fortey View All.
Go to British Wildlife. Conservation Land Management. Go to Conservation Land Management. By: Dick Vane-Wright Author. Klots next.
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