Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 131–142 | Cite as

Insect conservation in Michigan prairie fen: addressing the challenge of global change

  • D. A. Landis
  • A. K. Fiedler
  • C. A. Hamm
  • D. L. Cuthrell
  • E. H. Schools
  • D. R. Pearsall
  • M. E. Herbert
  • P. J. Doran


Prairie fen is a globally rare, groundwater dependent peatland community restricted to discrete portions of the glaciated north central USA. Prairie fen harbours a diverse flora composed of sedge wetland and tallgrass prairie species, which in turn support a diversity of rare insects. In Michigan, USA over 20% of the state’s insects of conservation concern are associated with prairie fen, including the globally imperilled Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Here we investigate how global change drivers, including land use change, climate change, and invasive species, may interact to threaten this important community. Specifically, we examine how characteristics of prairie fen habitats—e.g., formation and distribution—interact with the biology of rare fen insects to suggest appropriate short to long term conservation strategies. Our results suggest that prairie fen associated insects are rare for a variety of reasons, including host plant specialization, habitat specialization, and shifting landscape context that limits opportunities for dispersal. We recommend that current conservation efforts focus on stabilization and restoration of existing prairie fens, coupled with directed surveys to monitor population change in insects of concern, and restoration of the landscape matrix to facilitate metapopulation dynamics. In the future, due to the severely fragmented nature of Michigan landscapes, captive rearing and assisted migration may be necessary to conserve some prairie fen insect species. Overall, the effective conservation of fen associated insects will require a shared vision by multiple actors and a willingness to purse that vision over a long time frame.


Insect conservation Prairie fen Global change Conservation biology 



Many of the ideas expressed in this manuscript have been fostered by interactions with members of the Mitchell’s Satyr Recovery Working Group under the auspices of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Support for DAL, AKF and CAH was provided by Michigan State University AgBio Research, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, support for AKF and CAH was provided by a Barnett Rosenberg Fellowship and a Plant Sciences Fellowship respectively. We thank Lauren Bailey for assistance with the editorial process. Support for DLC and EHS was provided by grants from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. We would like to thank the many staff at MNFI who contributed over the years to this project. Support for PJD, DRP, and MEH was provided by The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Fund for Partnership in Conservation Science and Economics. This manuscript was improved with comments from Kim Hall and Daria Hyde.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. A. Landis
    • 1
  • A. K. Fiedler
    • 1
  • C. A. Hamm
    • 1
  • D. L. Cuthrell
    • 2
  • E. H. Schools
    • 2
  • D. R. Pearsall
    • 3
  • M. E. Herbert
    • 3
  • P. J. Doran
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Entomology, 204 Center for Integrated Plant SystemsMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Michigan Natural Features InventoryLansingUSA
  3. 3.The Nature ConservancyMichigan Field OfficeLansingUSA

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