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Re-Thinking Regal Fritillary Conservation and Management: Habitat Characteristics and the Impact of Disturbance Regime on an Imperiled Grassland Butterfly

Investigator:
Kelsey McCullough, M.S. Student
Caroline Skidmore, Undergraduate
Dr. Gene Albanese, Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Project Supervisor:
Dr. David Haukos

Funding:
Department of Defense

Cooperators:
Jeff Keating, Department of Defense
Shawn Stratten, Department of Defense
Mike Houck, Department of Defense
Konza Praire Biological Station

Location:
Fort Riley Military Reservation
Konza Prairie Biological Station

Completion:
November 2016

Status: Completed


Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia)

Objectives:
Generate probabilistic maps of the predicted distribution of the regal fritillary larval host plant species and identify the habitat features and management practices associated with its occurrence, distribution and density

Construct descriptive models that identify the management regimes, vegetative, and environmental features associated with the occurrence, distribution, and abundance of late-instar regal fritillary larvae

Construct a descriptive model that identifies the habitat features and management practices that influence the occurrence, distribution, and abundance of adult regal fritillary

Construct a descriptive model that identifies the habitat features and management practices that influence the occurrence, distribution and abundance of post-reproductive diapause adult female regal fritillary

Progress and Results:
The Regal fritillary (Speyeria idalia) was once an abundant butterfly species of the prairie biome with a range that extended from the Canadian border to Oklahoma and east to the Atlantic coast. However, populations have declined by approximately 99% in the prairie region and the species is nearly extirpated in the eastern portion of its former range largely due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and the subsequent breakdown of metapopulation dynamics. Populations that remain are restricted to remnant tracts of native prairie. The overall objective of this research is to assess the effects of habitat features and management practices on the distribution and density of regal fritillary and their larval host plants. To meet the objectives, we surveyed remnant tracts of prairie in north-central Kansas for regal fritillary host plants, larvae and adults. We applied these data to a novel gradient habitat model framework. This framework facilitated the spatially explicit modeling of the distribution and relative density patterns of regal fritillary larvae, adults, and host plants as a continuous function of multiple resources and environmental conditions across multiple scales. Our results indicate that greater host plant density and short fire return intervals are important to the occurrence of late-instar larvae and despite current management recommendations, larvae may be negatively impacted by a lack of fire. Preliminary analysis of adult data suggests that adult density was greater in areas that were grazed and had a 3-5 year fire return interval. The conservation management implications of these results to the persistence of regal fritillary populations within the region may require a re-thinking of previous assumptions.


Kelsey



Carolyn


Products:
Thesis:
McCullough, Kelsey E. (M.S., 2016; advisor Haukos) A multi-scale examination of the distribution and habitat use patterns of the regal fritillary. Master's Thesis, Division of Biology, Kansas State University.

Professional Presentations:

McCullough, K.E., G. Albanese, and D.A. Haukos. 2016. Re-thinking regal fritillary conservation and management: habitat characteristics and the impact of disturbance regime on an imperiled grassland butterfly. Annual meeting of The Wildlife Society, Raleigh, NC.

Skidmore, C., K.E., McCullough, G. Albanese, and D.A. Haukos. 2016. A distribution modeling approach to monarch butterfly density, host plant occurrence, and preferred habitat in the Flint Hills. Annual meeting of The Wildlife Society, Raleigh, NC.

McCullough, K. 2016. Re-Thinking Regal Fritillary conservation and management: Habitat characteristics and the impact of disturbance regime on an imperiled grassland butterfly. Annual Graduate Research Forum, Division of Biology.

McCullough, Kelsey. 2016. Habitat Characteristics and the Impact of Disturbance Regime on an Imperiled Grassland Butterfly: Re-Thinking Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia) Conservation and Management. Kansas Natural Resources Conference, Wichita, KS.

McCullough, K. 2015. Gradient habitat modeling of Regal Fritillary and larval host plant using a distribution modeling approach with notes on life history attributes. Annual Graduate Research Forum, Division of Biology.

McCullough, K., G. Albanese, and D.A. Haukos. 2015. Gradient habitat modeling of regal fritillary (Speyeria idalia) and larval host plant using distribution modeling approach with notes on life history sttributes. Annual meeting of the Central Mountains and Plains Section of The Wildlife Society, Manhattan, Kansas.

McCullough, K., and G. Albanese. 2015. Gradient habitat modeling of Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia) and larval host plant using a distribution modeling approach with notes on life history attributes. National Military Fish & Wildlife Association Conference. Omaha, NE.

McCullough, K., and G. Albanese. 2015. Gradient habitat modeling of Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia) and larval host plant using a distribution modeling approach with notes on life history attributes. Kansas Natural Resources Annual Conference. Wichita, KS.

Harris, Robert III. 2015. The Effect of Management Regime on Sex Ratios among Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia) Populations in the Central Great Plains. Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), Kansas State University, Division of Biology. (Mentors: Gene Albanese, Davis Haukos).