After seeing some success with their initial butterfly habitat enhancement efforts, the IRC team and its volunteers noticed that some seeds planted in some plots did not germinate or grow into plants. They are now using adaptive management techniques to change their plan moving forward to ensure even greater success across all 11 plots.
The next step included designing a plant pallet to incorporate 12 important nectar species for the butterflies to feed and 11 host species on which butterflies lay their eggs so their larva can survive. The team gathered seeds for the 23 plant species and planted them in the 11 plots of land they designated for butterfly habitat restoration. IRC volunteers and members of the public helped identify and maintain seeds that germinated in the plots through stewardship activities. After only seeing well-established plants in 5 of the plots, the team is now altering their approach to have better success in the remaining areas. Groups have visited the sites where the seeds are not established to research and predict what might have happened. They concluded that possible reasons for poor establishment in some plots include environmental differences like soil composition and slope, water runoff from heavy rainfall, and seed predation.
Moving forward, the team is using the information gathered as a way to adapt their plan. At the beginning of the year, the team will start the process of replanting seeds that saw success in other plots, but this time they will ensure to plant closer to upcoming rainfall to mitigate the seeds being eaten by animals or blown away by wind. In addition to planting new seeds, the team will also be planting 2,000 “container plants” or already established plants to ensure a better rate of survival. By the spring, the team hopes to see all 11 plots with well-established plants for the butterflies to begin using.
Monthly monitoring will continue in these areas and the team will provide any extra maintenance needed. If you would like to get involved, IRC volunteers are hosting two events for the public to help called, “Limestone Butterfly Islands Stewardship”, on October 5 and December 7.
As an ongoing project, IRC hopes to see the results of its team and volunteers’ hard work in a couple of years. To stay informed on this progress and learn more about native plants on the Landmarks, visit IRConservancy.org or follow the Landmarks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.