Conservation and Management of Rare Wetland Butterflies: Strategies for Monitoring, Wetland Enhancement, and Captive Rearing in the Mid-Atlantic Region

The status and distribution of many wetland butterfly species is uncertain in several Mid-Atlantic States.  Many of these species are considered species of Greatest Conservation Need (GCN) in many or all of the states in which they occur.  For some species declines are well documented and may span a decade or more, while others are of concern based on low encounter rates and negative data during recent survey efforts. This may be in part due to threats impacting groundwater wetlands, including outright destruction, habitat degredation and the succession of open wetland habitats to forest or dense shrubland.  Additional perceived threats include climate change, and a vulnerability to extirpation from fragmentation and isolation effects resulting in inbreeding depression and reduced population viability. 

In response to the declines in many butterfly species across the region, individuals from several Mid-Atlantic States met for the first time in April 2014 to discuss the prospect of creating a GCN butterfly working group with the goal of improving our understanding of the status, distribution and life history requirements of GCN butterflies through coordination at a regional level.  While there are many GCN butterflies spanning multiple habitat types, the group decided that the initial focus would be GCN butterflies inhabiting groundwater wetlands, with the primary objective of enhancing and expanding populations of GCN wetland butterflies through developing a greater understanding of the distribution and habitat requirements for these species, followed by habitat improvement projects where needed.  To this end we propose a multi-state coordination effort to update distribution and abundance data for GCN wetland butterflies, identify, maintain and enhance wetlands that support GCN butterflies, and develop Best Management Practices (BMPs) for both species and wetland management in an effort to increase the number of colonies for multiple GCN species and promote connectivity between those colonies.


Plans to survey multiple sites in each state for target GCN butterflies were completed, and habitat assessment work was completed for many sites.

Expected End Date: December 31, 2017


Original Proposal: 

Project Leader

Name: Jennifer Frye

Title: Invertebrate Ecologist

Organization: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Program

Other Principal Investigators

Name: Betsy Leppo

Title: Invertebrate Zoologist

Organization: Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Name: Susan Olcott

Title: Regional Wildlife Diversity Biologist

Organization: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

Name: Damien Ossi

Title: Fish and Wildlife Biologist

Organization: Fisheries and Wildlife Division, District of Columbia Department of the Environment

Name: Robert Somes

Title: Wildlife Biologist

Organization: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Name: Christopher Tracey

Title: Conservation Planning Coordinator

Organization: Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy