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Endangered butterfly needs proper habitat, special nectar

Some might call them picky eaters, but this beautiful endangered butterfly, named Fender's blue, needs certain plants to complete its reproductive cycle -- and it requires different plants to flourish once it reaches the final, butterfly stage.these needs.

A new study by a University of California, Santa Barbara researcher, to be reported this week details these needs.

It's not enough to simply declare the species endangered. Proper habitat must be restored if the species is to continue, according to ecologists.

Unfortunately, the nectar plants and larval food plants needed by this butterfly are in short supply, and they are difficult to re-establish. The native prairies where the plants once flourished have practically vanished due to agriculture and development. Survey records from the mid-1800s indicate that prairie covered more than a million acres in the Willamette Valley before settlement by European-Americans, according to researchers.

Ecologist Cheryl B. Schultz, a post-doctoral fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will present the findings of her latest study of the habitat of the Fender's blue butterfly at the annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology in Missoula, Montana on June 11th.

The Fender's blue butterfly, now found in only a few spots in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, was discovered in the 1920s and then presumed extinct by the 1930s. Then, in 1989, a few tiny populations of the butterfly were rediscovered. Eventually, eleven years later, the species was listed as endangered for the first time in January of this year.

Schultz has specialized in study of Fender's blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides fenderi) for several years, and is one of the few experts on the species. Less than one half a percent of the native prairies of the Willamette Valley remain, said Schultz. "The native grasslands are
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Contact: Gail Brown
gbrown@instadv.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
6-Jun-2000


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