Limited in distribution to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, St. Francis’ Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci) is one of the rarest butterflies in the US. Its populations have been reduced by habitat loss, particularly by loss of wetland openings along streams where the butterflies persist. These wetlands are maintained by disturbance, mainly caused by beavers that create and then abandon ponds. Fire can also set back succession in these wetlands.
Our current effort with St. Francis’ Satyr is focused on restoration to simulate the effects of natural disturbances caused by beaver and fire. We have become most successful in mimicking the effects of beaver by damming wetlands and removing trees. Our longer-term goals are to make disturbance management more sustainable. To do so, we need to determine the spatial structure of the butterfly’s population, and in particular the role of riparian corridors in promoting dispersal between sites.
Our current work includes studies of:
- Effects of beavers on wetland plant communities, including on habitat quality for St. Francis’ Satyr
- Effects of habitat fragmentation and landscape boundaries on dispersal behavior
- Optimal approaches to monitoring long-term population dynamics
- Tests of food preferences for St. Francis satyr caterpillars
View our pulished St. Francis’ Satyr research in our Rare Butterflies Publications.