Monitoring an endangered butterfly and its habitat
The Karner blue (Plebejus melissa samuelis) is an endangered butterfly whose decline has been the result of the destruction, fragmentation, and degradation of pine barrens and oak savanna ecosystems. One of the few remaining populations of this species occurs in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, which protects remnants of a northeastern interior pine barrens ecosystem in eastern New York. In conjunction with state, private, and federal partners, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission (APBPC) has been restoring pine barrens using a combination of management actions, such as removing invasive and overabundant plant species, planting native species, prescribed burning, and mowing. APBPC is also employing management actions aimed directly at increasing the Karner blue’s population size, such as planting its host plant (blue lupine) and captive rearing and release. To evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts, the commission has been (1) monitoring adult population size annually since 2007 at multiple sites throughout the preserve using distance sampling methodology and (2) measuring lupine stem density, nectar availability, and vegetation structure at select sites.