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Keywords:

  • butterflies;
  • Juniperus monosperma;
  • lepidoptera;
  • overstory reduction;
  • piñon-juniper woodlands;
  • Pinus edulis;
  • restoration;
  • woodland thinning

Abstract

Overstory reduction and slash mulching (ORSM) has been shown to be an effective means for increasing herbaceous cover and diversity in degraded piñon (Pinus edulis) and juniper (Juniperus monosperma) woodlands of north-central New Mexico. Local fire history, tree age-class structure, and grazing records suggest that many areas now occupied by dense piñon-juniper woodlands were formerly more open, with grassy understories that supported well-developed soils and a fire regime. At Bandelier National Monument, studies are evaluating the use of ORSM treatments as a restoration management tool. In 1999 and 2001, we evaluated the effects of an ORSM treatment implemented in 1997 upon butterfly abundance and species richness between a pair of treated and control watersheds. Butterfly abundance and species richness were significantly greater on the treated watershed in both years, and these measures were correlated with significant increases in forb and grass cover in the treated watershed. Five of the 10 most common nectar and larval host plants had significantly greater cover in the treated watershed, including the legume Lotus wrightii. Our results suggest that the increased herbaceous cover resulting from an ORSM treatment of a single watershed induced a positive, initial response by butterflies. Using butterflies as indicators of site productivity and species richness, our results suggest ORSM is a promising technique for restoring biodiversity in degraded piñon-juniper woodlands.