Project

Prairie Fen Research Collaborative

Goal: The Prairie Fen Research Collaborative is an informal partnership formed by researchers at Central Michigan University and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, a program of Michigan State University Extension. Our goal is to conduct applied research that addresses knowledge gaps hindering the conservation of prairie fen biodiversity. By accruing knowledge and creating new tools, we help a variety of agencies and organizations working to conserve prairie fens for the benefit of unique species and people

Methods: Remote Sensing, Conservation, Survey Design, Plant-Animal Interactions, Vegetation Sampling, Habitat Monitoring, Predictive Modeling

Date: 30 December 2011

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Project log

Sara E. Hansen
added 4 research items
Adaptive Management (AM) is a structured and iterative approach to making conservation decisions. Natural history collections can play a critical role in the development of AM strategies for invasive species, conservation of threatened and endangered species, and assessment of environmental impacts. We will present on our experience building collaborations and developing AM strategies for the conservation of the federally listed butterfly, Poweshiek skipperling; and the effective management of the Great Lakes aquatic invasive plant, European frog-bit. We engaged with partners from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources (MI, MN, WI, IN), Michigan Natural Features Inventory (a Natural Heritage Program), Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and researchers from US and Canadian Zoos. In both collaborative projects, collections provided critical and verifiable occurrence records representing the target species over time, space, and scale. Working with our collaborators we were able to extend the collections data using a combination of observation-based occurrence records (and field images), associated species records, environmental data, and land cover data. We developed a collaborative workflow designed to integrate data across taxa, field sites, collaborators and stakeholders and created standardized methods to facilitate more efficient field data preparation, data cleaning, and post-curation practices. The extended specimen data contributed to our understanding of species ranges, critical habitat, and biodiversity changes over time. We were able to fill critical information gaps, inform ongoing research efforts, assist in the development of a pesticide risk assessment, contribute critical distribution data to a USFWS species recovery plan, and inform best-management practices. By building collaborations among partners in state and federal agencies, non-profits, and museums and living collections, we were able to extend the specimen-based data with legacy and ongoing observation-based data and enhance our ability to manage and conserve biodiversity.
A next step in enhancing biodiversity collections is the building the infrastructure and incorporating new extended specimen data, information, and measurements into datasets. Buy-in from the research community to develop datasets abiding by FAIR data principles will expand the capabilities and questions that could be answered buy biodiversity data. In many field-based ecological projects, the adoption and integration of FAIR data principals is not at the forefront of project planning or resource allocation. The burden of such datasets is usually placed on the data curator post-data collection. Since few resources are allocated for data curation, we must develop best practices that can be adopted when designing the field collection protocols to reduce the burden and develop flexible and dynamic tools to organize data post-collection. We will share best practices and lessons learned over the course of several large-scale projects when collecting observational and specimen data to integrate into multi-layer, multi-dimensional relational datasets modeling Darwin Core terms and classes. We also call for other developments that will ease creation of biodiversity datasets to enable effective, long-term scientific data stewardship for field-based projects.
Adaptive Management (AM) is a structured and iterative approach for making conservation decisions. Natural history collections can play a critical role in the development of AM strategies for management of invasive species, conservation of threatened and endangered species, and restoration of degraded ecosystems. We will present on our experience building collaborations and developing AM strategies for the conservation of the federally listed butterfly, Poweshiek skipperling; and the management of the Great Lakes invasive aquatic plant, European frog-bit. We engaged with partners from federal and state agencies, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (a Natural Heritage Program), and researchers from U.S. and Canadian Universities and Zoos. In both collaborative projects, collections provided critical and verifiable occurrence records representing the target species over time and space. Working with our collaborators we were able to extend the collections data using a combination of observation-based occurrence records (and field images), associated species records, environmental data, and land cover data. We were able to use the extended specimen data to fill critical information gaps, inform ongoing research efforts, assist in the development of a pesticide risk assessment, contribute critical distribution data to a USFWS species recovery plan, and document the spatial and temporal progression of an aquatic plant invasion. By building collaborations among partners in state and federal agencies, non-profits, and museums and living collections, we were able to extend the specimen-based data with legacy and ongoing observation-based data and enhance our ability to manage and conserve biodiversity.
David L. Cuthrell
added a research item
1. The Poweshiek skipperling [Oarisma poweshiek (Parker, 1870; Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae)] is a federally endangered butterfly that was historically common in prairies of the upper Midwestern United States and Southern Manitoba, Canada. Rapid declines over the last 20 years have reduced the population numbers to four verified extant sites. The causes of Poweshiek skipperling decline are unknown. 2. We aggregated all known Poweshiek skipperling occurrence records to examine the spatiotemporal patterns of Poweshiek skipperling decline. Ecological niche models were developed for five time frames (1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005) and three spatial extents (eastern occupied range, western occupied range and total occupied range). We used a backward elimination method to investigate the effects of climate and land use on the ecological niche of Poweshiek skipperling. 3. Predictors of occurrence changed over time and across the geographical extent of Poweshiek skipperling. Land use covariates were retained in east models. In the west and total extent, climate variables contributed the most to model predictive power for the 1985, 1990 and 1995 models; land use variables contributed the most to model predictive power in the 2000 and 2005 models. 4. During the rapid decline in Poweshiek skipperling population numbers occurring at the turn of the century, probability of Poweshiek skipperling presence was being driven by proportion of natural land cover and distance to nearest grassland/wetland. Our results suggest that these land use variables are important landscape‐level variables to consider when developing risk assessments of extant populations and potential reintroduction sites. The Poweshiek skipperling [Oarisma poweshiek (Parker, 1870; Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae)] is a federally endangered butterfly that was historically common in prairies of the upper Midwestern United States and Southern Manitoba, Canada. Rapid declines have reduced the population to four verified extant sites. We developed models to investigate the effects of climate and land use on the ecological niche of Poweshiek skipperling. Our results suggest that proportion of natural land cover and distance to nearest grassland/wetland are important landscape‐level variables to consider when developing risk assessments of extant populations and potential reintroduction sites.
Clint Pogue
added a research item
The Poweshiek skipperling Oarisma poweshiek, Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae is a historically common prairie butterfly with a range extending throughout prairie systems of the upper midwestern United States and southern Manitoba, Canada. Rapid, range-wide declines have reduced the number of verified Poweshiek skipperling locations to one in Manitoba prairie, one in Wisconsin prairie, and four in prairie fens in Michigan. Our objective was to investigate parameter suites with the potential to be biologically relevant to Poweshiek skipperling occupancy with the goal of informing conservation efforts. At 18 prairie fens categorized as occupied ( n = 9) or unoccupied ( n = 9), we collected information on plant biodiversity, water chemistry, soil chemistry, site geometry, and surrounding current and historical land cover at three spatial scales. To address the complexity of these systems, we used multiresponse permutation procedures and nonmetric multidimensional scaling to explore associations between variable groups thought to be relevant to Poweshiek skipperling (conditions for suspected larval host plants, system integrity, and agricultural influence) and occupancy categories. We used indicator species analysis to understand the relationships between plant biodiversity and Poweshiek skipperling occupancy at whole- and intrafen scales. Multiresponse permutation procedures analysis suggested that conditions for suspected larval host plants differed between occupied and unoccupied prairie fens. At the whole-fen scale, we identified 14 plant species associated with Poweshiek-occupied sites, including two purported larval host plants, Muhlenbergia richardsonis and Schizachyrium scoparium. At the intrafen scale, we identified 52 species associated with unoccupied Poweshiek sites, including many weedy species and those tolerant of inundated conditions. Our results can inform the evaluation of potentially suitable habitat for introduction and reintroduction efforts.
Anna K. Monfils
added a research item
Poweshiek skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek, Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) has experienced a range-wide decline resulting in six reported extant sites. Critical knowledge gaps related to Poweshiek skipperling adult behavior, phenology, habitat structure, and potential larval host plants are limiting the ability to manage this federally endangered species. To address these information needs, we conducted extensive surveys in the last remaining stronghold of four extant prairie fens in Michigan. We used point transect surveys to collect data on plant structure, and Poweshiek skipperling behavior and detection. We estimated Poweshiek skipperling abundance and modeled the influence of local vegetation on Poweshiek skipperling presence/absence. We estimated the abundance of adult Poweshiek skipperling in Michigan prairie fens to be 231 (95% CI 160–332), further highlighting the imperiled status of this species. Presence of Poweshiek skipperling along our transects was negatively associated with obstructive vegetation and positively associated with the availability of the nectar source Dasiphora fruticosa. Our observation data indicated females nectared most frequently on D. fruticosa, whereas males nectared most often on Rudbeckia hirta. Across the field season we observed 7 oviposition events on four plant species (Muhlenbergia richardsonis, Muhlenbergia glomerata, Carex sterilis, and D. fruticosa), three of which had no previous documentation as a possible host plant. Results from this study can be used to evaluate management decisions and inform both in situ and ex situ conservation efforts. It is critical to continue monitoring remaining populations, not only to assess conservation efforts, but also to discern the patterns and processes influencing species extinction.
David L. Cuthrell
added a research item
Background Primary biodiversity data records that are open access and available in a standardised format are essential for conservation planning and research on policy-relevant time-scales. We created a dataset to document all known occurrence data for the Federally Endangered Poweshiek skipperling butterfly [Oarisma poweshiek (Parker, 1870; Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae)]. The Poweshiek skipperling was a historically common species in prairie systems across the upper Midwest, United States and Manitoba, Canada. Rapid declines have reduced the number of verified extant sites to six. Aggregating and curating Poweshiek skipperling occurrence records documents and preserves all known distributional data, which can be used to address questions related to Poweshiek skipperling conservation, ecology and biogeography. Over 3500 occurrence records were aggregated over a temporal coverage from 1872 to present. Occurrence records were obtained from 37 data providers in the conservation and natural history collection community using both “HumanObservation” and “PreservedSpecimen” as an acceptable basisOfRecord. Data were obtained in different formats and with differing degrees of quality control. During the data aggregation and cleaning process, we transcribed specimen label data, georeferenced occurrences, adopted a controlled vocabulary, removed duplicates and standardised formatting. We examined the dataset for inconsistencies with known Poweshiek skipperling biogeography and phenology and we verified or removed inconsistencies by working with the original data providers. In total, 12 occurrence records were removed because we identified them to be the western congener Oarisma garita (Reakirt, 1866). This resulting dataset enhances the permanency of Poweshiek skipperling occurrence data in a standardised format. New information This is a validated and comprehensive dataset of occurrence records for the Poweshiek skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek) utilising both observation and specimen-based records. Occurrence data are preserved and available for continued research and conservation projects using standardised Darwin Core formatting where possible. Prior to this project, much of these occurrence records were not mobilised and were being stored in individual institutional databases, researcher datasets and personal records. This dataset aggregates presence data from state conservation agencies, natural heritage programmes, natural history collections, citizen scientists, researchers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The data include opportunistic observations and collections, research vouchers, observations collected for population monitoring and observations collected using standardised research methodologies. The aggregated occurrence records underwent cleaning efforts that improved data interoperablitity, removed transcription errors and verified or removed uncertain data. This dataset enhances available information on the spatiotemporal distribution of this Federally Endangered species. As part of this aggregation process, we discovered and verified Poweshiek skipperling occurrence records from two previously unknown states, Nebraska and Ohio.
Anna K. Monfils
added a project reference
Anna K. Monfils
added a project goal
The Prairie Fen Research Collaborative is an informal partnership formed by researchers at Central Michigan University and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, a program of Michigan State University Extension. Our goal is to conduct applied research that addresses knowledge gaps hindering the conservation of prairie fen biodiversity. By accruing knowledge and creating new tools, we help a variety of agencies and organizations working to conserve prairie fens for the benefit of unique species and people
 
Anna K. Monfils
added 4 research items
The spectral diversity hypothesis proposes that as the number of plant species increases for a given area, the diversity of spectra observed from that area should also increase. This approach could be very useful as an assessment and monitoring tool to help ecologists understand the spatial and temporal patterns of biodiversity without relying on consistently detecting individual species. While the spectral diversity hypothesis has been examined for a wide range of ecosystems using a variety of remote sensing data, it has not been tested using spectroscopy (i.e. hyperspectral) data for wetlands. Previous studies have not explicitly considered the impact that flowers may have on spectral diversity and how this may impact the spectral diversity hypothesis. To test the spectral diversity hypothesis and the potential impact on flowers, we used a simulation approach to combine leaf and flower spectra collected from a diverse prairie fen wetland ecosystem into datasets of virtual plots with varying levels of species diversity and different combination of species. To address the high dimensionality of the data, we compared spectral diversity and floristic diversity using partial least squares regression. Our results found that defining floristic diversity using the Shannon's diversity index, which accounts for plant abundance in each plot, produced the best predictive models where the predicted values had a RMSE less than 40% of the mean observed value. We also found that the inclusion of flower spectra with leaf spectra did increase the RMSE of the best model, but across all models, correlation increased. Our results indicate that spectral diversity could be used as an initial biodiversity assessment tool for wetlands, especially with on-going advancements in unmanned aerial vehicle technology that can provide a low altitude platform for imaging spectroscopy.
The Poweshiek skipperling Oarisma poweshiek (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) is a historically common prairie butterfly with a range extending throughout the mesic prairies and prairie fens of the upper Midwestern United States and southern Manitoba, Canada. Rapid, range-wide declines have reduced the number of verified Poweshiek skipperling locations to seven, four of which occur in Michigan. To assist with monitoring and, ultimately, conservation efforts, we developed a habitat model using the software Maxent with ecological and geographical factors. Using a lowest-presence threshold methodology, our habitat suitability model indicated potentially high suitability in 26 of 138 prairie fens with no documentation of Poweshiek skipperling occurrence. The strongest predictors of suitable habitat in our model were prairie fen area and surrounding natural land cover. Wildlife managers can use results from this analysis to expand monitoring to include sites with suitable habitat where Poweshiek skipperling are not currently documented, in addition to identifying potential introduction sites.
Prairie fens are globally vulnerable wetlands that are considered a conservation priority due to threats to their high biodiversity and hydrological functions. Establishing a thorough and repeatable plant sampling protocol is critical to evaluating conservation and management initiatives. Our goal was to evaluate a sample methodology designed to assess prairie fen plant diversity and determine if it produced results (1) representative of site diversity, (2) comparable among fens, and (3) efficient to collect. Nineteen fens between 8.5 and 28.4 ha were surveyed twice within one growing season during 2012 and 2013 field seasons using an area-proportional, random design. The turnover in species between spring and summer sampling periods within a site ranged from 8 to 50 %. Sample coverage of total estimated plant species richness ranged from 84.8 to 95.0 % with a mean of 90.1 %. We compared results from our area-proportional, random design to simulated random samples of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 quadrats per site. No significant difference was found in sample coverage per fen when using sampling rates of 25, 30, or 35 quadrats per site versus the area-proportional design. Shannon’s diversity index and floristic quality index differed by sample period and number of quadrats sampled per fen. Our sample design produced acceptable levels of coverage and facilitated comparisons across fens. Our methodology could be applied to future research, restoration monitoring, and conservation planning efforts in Midwestern prairie fens.