Anne Walker, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Catherine E. de Rivera
Date of Award
Master of Environmental Management (MEM)
Environmental Science and Management
Oregon silverspot butterfly -- Mortality -- Oregon, Windbreaks shelterbelts etc -- Oregon -- Pacific Coast, Express highways -- Environmental aspects -- Oregon -- Pacific Coast, Wildlife habitat improvement, United States Highway 101, Butterflies -- Conservation -- Oregon -- Pacific Coast
Roads impact wildlife in a variety of ways including fragmentation of populations, reduced access to habitat, and direct mortality from vehicle strikes. Such road effects likely impact the Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene hippolyta) at one of its few remaining sites. The Rock Creek-Big Creek population of this threatened fritillary butterfly species is bisected by highway 101 on the central Oregon coast. Habitat resources for S. z. hippolyta are found on both the east and west sides of the highway at this site, and vehicle-strikes have been found to cause mortality of some individuals crossing the highway. The 2001 revised Recovery Plan calls out road mortality as a primary threat to S. z. hippolyta and land managers are considering mitigation strategies to reduce this threat on the population. A previous study at Rock Creek- Big Creek prioritized mitigation strategies including mowing of the road sides to decrease flowering plants along the verge and installation of vegetative hedgerows along the highway where the butterflies are crossing to encourage increased flight height over the road. Mowing has taken place over the last two years, but the hedgerows have neither been installed nor tested for effectiveness.
This study investigates the effectiveness of hedgerows to increase the flight height of S. z. hippolyta through experimental tests using 3-meter tall nets as "guiding barriers" to mimic vegetative hedgerows in the flight path of S. z. hippolyta at another site in Oregon, Mt. Hebo. Mt. Hebo was chosen because of the stable population of S. z. hippolyta that is found there, the low risk of mortality for individual butterflies during the course of the study, and consistent use of a corridor by S. z. hippolyta. Treatments were designed to mimic a flight path in which a butterfly encounters a "road" of a width simulating that of highway 101 with 3-meter guiding barriers on either side. Based on previous research observations, it was hypothesized that S. z. hippolyta individuals would fly over the guiding barriers at an increased "safe" flight height such that they would fly over traffic height. Results of the experimental study indicated that a 3-meter guiding barrier in the flight path of S. z. hippolyta did not significantly increase the flight height of individuals. None of the individuals observed flew at a safe flight height over the road (>3 meters). Further, S. z. hippolyta individuals landed on the road surface more often when there was a guiding barrier in the flight path. These results suggest that while S. z. hippolyta individuals are able to fly over guiding barriers in their path at heights of 3 meters or more, there is no evidence to suggest that these structures will influence flight height over highway 101 such that road mortality is reduced.
Additionally, this study investigated the known butterfly crossing points at Rock Creek-Big Creek to test the hypothesis that S. z. hippolyta individuals are crossing at points of lower vegetation adjacent to the road. Using data from previous studies, ten crossing points were mapped at this site. Light detection and ranging data (LiDAR) was used to derive vegetation height along highway 101 and analyzed between known crossing points and random points within the Rock Creek-Big Creek area in addition to resource density of the larval host plant (Viola adunca) within the meadows. Statistical analysis indicated that the butterflies were generally crossing at points along the highway with significantly lower vegetation adjacent to the road. Visual analysis indicated that the butterflies were also generally crossing between areas of densely located V. adunca. Additional spatial data is needed to do further path-analysis of S. z. hippolyta individuals.
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Littlejohn, Rebecca Jalene, "Connecting Habitat Across Roads: Field Testing Mitigation Strategies for Reducing Road Mortality of an Imperiled Butterfly" (2012). Environmental Science and Management Professional Master's Project Reports. 24.