Determination of which aspects of habitat quality and habitat spatial arrangement best account for variation in a species' distribution can guide management for organisms such as the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), a federally endangered subspecies inhabiting savannas of Midwest and Eastern United States. We examined the extent to which three sets of predictors, (1) larval host plant (Lupinus perennis, wild lupine) availability, (2) characteristics of the matrix surrounding host plant patches, and (3) factors affecting a patch's thermal environment, accounted for variation in lupine patch use by Karner blues at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, USA. Each predictor set accounted for 7-13% of variation in patch occupancy by Karner blues at both sites and in larval feeding activity among patches at Indiana Dunes. Patch area, an indicator of host plant availability, was an exception, accounting for 30% of variation in patch occupancy at Indiana Dunes. Spatially structured patterns of patch use across the landscape accounted for 9-16% of variation in patch use and explained more variation in larval feeding activity than did spatial autocorrelation between neighboring patches. Because of this broader spatial trend across sites, a given management action may be more effective in promoting patch use in some portions of the landscape than in others. Spatial trend, resource availability, matrix quality, and microclimate, in general, accounted for similar amounts of variation in patch use and each should be incorporated into habitat management planning for the Karner blue butterfly.
Additional Publication Details
Resource availability, matrix quality, microclimate, and spatial pattern as predictors of patch use by the Karner blue butterfly