Regal Fritillary - Conservation

Conservation

Future losses among regal fritillary populations can be prevented by identifying critical habitat areas and managing them to maintain and improve habitat size, quality, and connectivity (Selby 2007). It is essential that land is set aside and protected in this manner. Land management practices should focus on the maintenance of intact native prairie remnants and the vegetation that is crucial to the regal fritillary’s continued survival. Managing for abundant larval food plants and nectar resources is extremely important. The timing, intensity, level, and duration of management activities must be adapted and monitored (Selby 2007). It has been suggested that proper management practices could play a crucial role in slowing, and possibly even reversing, the current wave of regal fritillary extirpations (Swengel 2004).

The Midwest landscape includes few prairie remnants which are embedded in an agricultural matrix (Davis et al. 2007). Thus, it is extremely important that the land surrounding prairie remnants be included in management decisions and practices. The quality of the matrix surrounding a particular habitat fragment often makes a difference on a species’ dispersal ability (Davis et al. 2007). Edge effects must be considered and managed for to improve the butterfly’s dispersal capabilities. Connectivity between regal fritillary habitats is also extremely important to consider in land management practices and would likely increase gene flow and genetic diversity in certain areas. This would help to reduce some of the negative effects associated with habitat fragmentation, increasing the overall health of regal fritillary populations.

Though it was found that extensive fire management can have direct negative impacts on regal fritillary populations, it is important to remember that prescribed burns can be beneficial to many plant species, including violets and nectar plants (Selby 2007). This could in turn provide some increased habitat benefits for the butterfly if prescribed burns are used appropriately. Fire management also helps to remove cool season exotics and woody vegetation that encroach on native prairie plants such as the violet. Thus it is important to understand both the positive and negative effects of fire management and the combined effects that it has on the long-term survival of the regal fritillary (Selby 2007). Management should account for this and it is recommended that only small portions, no more than 20% of the total butterfly habitat, be burned in a given year. It has also been suggested that 3 to 5 year burn rotations be used where a certain plot of land must remain unburned for at least 3 to 5 years before it can be burned again. These practices would likely minimize the negative effects that fire management tends to have on regal fritillary populations, while likely providing them with some increased benefits due to higher quality food and nectar resources. It has also been suggested that very light grazing is also beneficial to these prairie specialist butterflies and can effectively be used in combination with limited prescribed burning (Selby 2007).

A limited use of herbicides and pesticides is fine; however, it should be heavily monitored and carefully applied where the regal fritillary is concerned (Selby 2007). Increasing the awareness among surrounding agricultural areas regarding the use of herbicides and pesticides is critical. Decreasing the use of herbicides and pesticides on agricultural lands directly adjacent to prairie habitats may be quite beneficial to regal fritillary populations as well as to many other native prairie insects. It is best to avoid or limit the widespread and indiscriminant use of these control agents in these areas (Selby 2007). Prairies that manage for invasive plants and woody vegetation by applying herbicides should do so with extreme caution and moderation. The use of selective applications such as spot spraying is better as well as using non-persistent herbicides. Reseeding may also be necessary after some herbicide applications so that beneficial native species remain plentiful. However, the use of herbicide on prairie lands should be a last resort to removing unwanted vegetation in order to protect regal fritillary populations (Selby 2007).

Since there is limited knowledge about the exact distribution and abundance of many regal fritillary populations, it is crucial that inventory and monitoring practices are carried out. Through a better understanding of the regal fritillary, it is possible to further conservation efforts in the right direction. Accurately surveying populations is crucial to monitoring practices and provides a great deal of useful information about specific populations. Pollard transect surveys obtain results of relative abundance values which can be used to track trend in abundance over time (Selby 2007). This method is better for long term monitoring of populations and can be quite useful to tracking the status of the regal fritillary over time.

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