Adult monarch (Danaus plexippus) abundance is higher in burned sites than in grazed sites

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Much of the remaining suitable habitat for monarchs (Danaus plexippus) in Minnesota is found in tallgrass prairies. We studied the association of adult monarch abundance with use of fire or grazing to manage prairies. Sites (n=20) ranged in size from 1 to 145 hectares and included land owned and managed by the Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and private landowners. We measured Asclepias spp. (milkweeds, monarch host plants) and forb frequency in 0.5 x 2-m plots located along randomly-placed transects that were stratified to sample wet, mesic, and dry prairie types at each site. Adult butterfly surveys took place three times at each site during the summers of 2016 and 2017, using a standardized Pollard Walk (400 meters). Data were analyzed using mixed effects models. Monarchs were more abundant at sites managed with prescribed fire than with grazing. We found no difference in milkweed and forb frequency between burned and grazed prairies. There was no relationship between monarch abundance and the other predictor variables tested: milkweed frequency, site area, forb frequency, and percent prairie in a 1.5 km buffer area surrounding each site. Monarch abundance was lowest at grazed sites with high stocking rates. Our findings suggest that the use of burning or grazing for prairie management is not associated with milkweed or forb frequency, at least for sites that have not been burned in several years. They also suggest that heavy grazing may have negative impacts on monarchs.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Adult monarch (Danaus plexippus) abundance is higher in burned sites than in grazed sites
Series title Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.3389/fevo.2019.00435
Volume 7
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Frontiers
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 435
Country United States
State Minnesota
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