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Divergent responses of butterflies and bees to burning and grazing management in tallgrass prairies

December 4, 2022

Butterflies and bees contribute significantly to grassland biodiversity and play important roles as pollinators and herbivores. Grassland conservation and management must be seen through the lens of insect conservation and management if these species are to thrive. In North America, grasslands are a product of climate and natural disturbances such as fire and grazing. These natural disturbances have changed considerably since European colonization and subsequent landscape fragmentation. The aim of this study was to better understand the impacts of fire and grazing management on butterfly and bee communities in tallgrass prairie, enabling land managers and conservationists to better protect and manage remnant prairie. We examined butterfly and bee abundance, species richness, and diversity in Minnesota tallgrass prairies managed by grazing or fire. In 2016 and 2017, we surveyed butterflies, bees, vegetation, and surrounding land use at 20 remnant prairies (10 burned and 10 grazed) with known management histories. Butterfly and bee abundance at our study sites were significantly negatively correlated. Butterfly abundance, but not species richness, was higher in burned than grazed prairies, and prairie-associated grass-feeding butterflies were more abundant at sites with higher plant species richness. Bee abundance was unrelated to management type but was higher at sites with sandier soils; bee species richness was positively associated with forb frequency. These findings highlight the challenges of designing management plans tailored to wide groups of pollinators and the potential pitfalls of using one group of pollinators as indicators for another. They also point to the importance of a mosaic of management practices across the prairie landscape.

Publication Year 2022
Title Divergent responses of butterflies and bees to burning and grazing management in tallgrass prairies
DOI 10.1002/ece3.9532
Authors Julia B. Leone, Nora P. Pennarola, Jennifer Larson, Karen Oberhauser, Diane L. Larson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70243300
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center