Assessment of the Karner Blue Butterfly’S Response and Managed Relocation Under Climate Change

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Assessment of the Karner Blue Butterfly’S Response and Managed Relocation Under Climate Change


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The Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), an endangered species in decline from habitat loss, may be further threatened by climate change. Evaluating how climate shapes the dynamics and the distribution of Karner blue is helpful for developing adaptation plans. The demographic models generally used for insect populations are either density-dependent or are applied to population presence-absence data. The bulk of this thesis is concerned with the creation of scale-based, mixed density-dependent and density-independent (“endo-exogenous”) models for this butterfly based on the long-term count data shared by other Kaner blue researchers. The endo-exogenous models showed that both density dependence and environmental factors were important drivers of Karner blue population trends and that populations in different regions and the species’ bi-voltine generations have differing responses to climate (chapter 1). These models were then used to examine extinction risk and distribution shift under several scenarios of climatic change (elevated temperature and increased precipitation variance) by 2050. The predictions displayed relatively poor efficiency of local management on the populations of Central Wisconsin and Indian Dunes National Park under climate change, and they were projected to have high occupancy in the northern Midwest, especially Minnesota. These results suggested that some populations would benefit from managed relocation and that it would be possible to reintroduce the Karner blue back to Minnesota. To further identify target sites for relocation, the distributions of 179 utility-scale solar energy (USSE) were overlapped with model projections. There were 35 solar facilities located on sandy soil, and some of these were within the range of high occupancy of Karner blue populations, suggesting that if planted with native vegetation, including wild blue lupine (sole host plant of the Kaner blue), and converted into solar-pollinator habitats, USSE might have the potential to be developed as a refugia of this butterfly (chapter 2).


University of Minnesota M.S. thesis.June 2020. Major: Conservation Biology. Advisor: Hellmann Jessica. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 132 pages.

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Li, Yudi. (2020). Assessment of the Karner Blue Butterfly’S Response and Managed Relocation Under Climate Change. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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