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The role of patch size and connectivity in choosing restoration sites for an endangered butterfly.
Schultz, Cheryl*,1, Crone, Elizabeth2, 1 National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, CA2 University of Montana, Missoula, MT
ABSTRACT- Increasingly conservation strategies for endangered species focus on habitat restoration as an essential component of species recovery. Selecting appropriate restoration sites is a critical component of these conservation programs. We develop an approach to assess the relative influence of patch size and connectivity on restoration success using demography and dispersal behavior of the focal species. We use an endangered Oregon butterfly, Fender's blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides fenderi ), as our focal species. Our approach involves simulating butterfly movement across real landscapes with different potential restoration sites and asking if newly restored habitat contributes to enhancing population growth rate of the metapopulation. Our results suggest that regardless of whether restored sites rely on natural colonization of butterflies from nearby existing habitat or reintroduction from captively reared stocks, both patch size and connectivity influence population growth rates. In addition, our approach allows us to estimate the size and distance at which these influences are significant. In the case of the Fender's blue, restored patches should be no more than 1-2 km from existing habitat and at least 2-10 ha in size.
KEY WORDS: restoration ecology, reserve design, Fender's blue butterfly, endangered species