Do we help birds when we help butterflies? Effects of oak savanna restoration for Karner blue butterfly on savanna bird communities
Thus, it is possible that managing oak savannas for the Karner blue butterfly provides a conservation benefit for bird communities that use this habitat during the breeding season. Eric Wood, a researcher and postdoc in the SILVIS lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, investigated this by examining avian communities in the Karner blue butterfly restored oak savannas at Fort McCoy Military Installation during his PhD study. The topic is especially important because, so far, there are no conservation plans for the birds that use oak savanna for breeding in Wisconsin and thus this study provided an opportunity to better understand how oak savanna habitat restoration impacts bird communities.
According to Wood's research the main factor which differentiates the bird communities of remnant and restored oak savannas is the surrounding habitat type (i.e., landscape context). This turned out to be more important than time since restoration (i.e., time lags), restoration technique, or patch area size of the restoration. When restored savannas are surrounded by grasslands or remnant oak savannas, bird species characteristic for sparse canopy habitats (e.g., oak savannas) occur in high densities in the newly created habitats. However if restored plots are surrounded by dense woodland or forested ecosystems, dense canopy associated bird species tend to predominate. 'To protect the Karner blue butterfly and bird communities that use oak savanna habitats, the location of future restoration savanna plots should be chosen carefully, taking into account the context of whole landscape' says Wood. These results are important for land managers and provide a useful step towards better understanding conservation for bird communities that use oak savanna habitats.