Fire is an important tool in the conservation and restoration of tallgrass prairie ecosystems. We investigated how both the vegetation composition and butterfly community of tallgrass prairie remnants changed in relation to the elapsed time (in months) since prescribed fire. Butterfly richness and butterfly abundance were positively correlated with the time since burn. Habitat-specialist butterfly richness recovery time was greater than 70 months post-fire and habitat-specialist butterfly abundance recovery time was approximately 50 months post-fire. Thus, recovery times for butterfly populations after prescribed fires in our study were potentially longer than those previously reported. We used Path Analysis to evaluate the relative contributions of the direct effect of time since fire and the indirect effects of time since fire through changes in vegetation composition on butterfly abundance. Path models highlighted the importance of the indirect effects of fire on habitat features, such as increases in the cover of bare ground. Because fire return intervals on managed prairie remnants are often less than 5 years, information on recovery times for habitat-specialist insect species are of great importance. ?? 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
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Direct and indirect responses of tallgrass prairie butterflies to prescribed burning