Vegetational and lepidopteran conservation in rehabilitated ecosystems
Holl, Karen Davis
MetadataShow full item record
Coal surface mining and associated reclamation practices have had an immense impact on the landscape of the Appalachian region of the United States. However, their effect on floral and faunal conservation has been poorly documented. Lepidopteran communities, vegetation, and nectar resources were studied on 19 mine sites reclaimed 0-30 years previously and five sites in the surrounding hardwoods in southwestern Virginia. The goals of this work were to characterize vegetational and lepidopteran communities of these sites; to understand the relationships between the two; and to assess the role of mine reclamation in regional conservation efforts. Vegetational community composition of the reclaimed sites appeared to be approaching that of the hardwood sites as time since reclamation increased. However, it will take a number of years, if ever, before the vegetational community composition and structure approximate that of the hardwoods. Between-site variation in vegetational communities was greater in the hardwoods, than the reclaimed sites. Recently reclaimed mined sites hosted a large number of both individuals and species of diurnal lepidoptera, comprising mostly widespread, generalist species. Multivariate analysis suggested that lepidopteran community composition of reclaimed sites was approaching that of the hardwoods and that lepidopteran communities of later successional reclaimed sites were fairly similar to those of the surrounding hardwoods. Moth community composition closely reflected vegetational community composition and species richness, while butterflies were poor indicators of vegetational communities. Reclaimed sites provided much more abundant and diverse nectar resources than hardwood forests. Results of nectar studies and butterfly behavioral observations suggested that adult butterfly community composition was strongly influenced by nectar abundance, but that nectar was not a limiting resource. While reclaimed sites hosted a number of the more common plant and lepidopteran species, it remains questionable whether reclaimed areas will ever host the entire complement of the biota present prior to disturbance. In order to further conservation efforts, rehabilitation projects must be designed and monitored over larger spatial and longer temporal scales.
- Doctoral Dissertations