Prioritization of Information Gaps Critical to Strengthening the Scientific Basis of Habitat Enhancement Planning and Determining Site Readiness for Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly: Strategy and Recommendations to Address Priority Information Gaps

The Urban Wildlands Group and Creekside Center for Earth Observation were contracted to provide an outside review of efforts to date; identify, prioritize and suggest means to fill key data gaps to strengthen the scientific basis of habitat enhancement planning and determining site readiness for reintroductions; and develop strategic recommendations for long-term adaptive restoration, reintroduction, and management. The workplan included five tasks and a site visit.

Task 1: Summary of cooperator’s assessments of current knowledge. We developed a written survey of synthesized research questions that assessed butterfly responses to biotic and abiotic habitat variables. We interviewed 20 participants, ranked their responses, and completed an evaluation of assessments of data gaps, research needs, and existing knowledge to guide enhancement and assessment of unoccupied habitat to prepare for reintroduction and support Taylor’s checkerspot recovery. Further information was gathered during a 5-day fall visit that included extensive field tours and open on-the-ground discussions of ecological, policy, and institutional issues. The ability of the core Taylor’s checkerspot recovery group to focus attention for successive days and communicate to informed outsiders was an invaluable experience for all involved.
Task 2: Annotated bibliography of relevant literature. We compiled references in a searchable online bibliographic database that extended discussions from our visit and addressed: survey
respondents’ priorities and contributed research questions; recognized data gaps for habitat restoration, enhancement, and assessment; relevant investigations and habitat metrics for related
taxa; research about behavioral responses to habitat variables and landscape structure; and the influence of weather, climate-change impacts, and topography on habitat. We reviewed literature and summarized highlights in an extensive annotated bibliography.
An interim “research menu” document was produced for immediate consideration for the 2013 season as well as longer-term projects.

Task 3: Summary and assessment of existing datasets for evaluating habitat enhancement. We inventoried eleven datasets of existing prairie vegetation, butterfly habitat, and butterfly monitoring data from six primary sources. We synthesized metadata from raw data and reports; produced abstracts and summary tables of attribute and coding definitions for each individual dataset; and developed a preliminary dataset catalogue for each individual data table.

This document addresses the following two tasks:

Task 4: Prioritization of information needs to aid habitat enhancement planning. We have determined which information gaps are most critical to strengthening the scientific basis of habitat enhancement planning and determining site readiness for Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly; and have the highest likelihood of being successfully addressed within a reasonable time frame and budget. We have prioritized information gaps, indicated which are critical and which are simply desirable to fill, and provide justification for our decisions based on pertinent findings from Tasks 1–3, site visits, and our team’s relevant expertise (i.e., Euphydryas editha research,
butterfly biology, ecology, and habitat suitability and data analysis).

Task 5: Strategy and recommendations to address priority information gaps. We have prepared a strategy that provides recommendations to address priority information gaps for critical habitat features for Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies in the south Puget Sound lowlands. These include enhanced monitoring of the butterfly and its habitat, and development of a long-term adaptive
management plan supported by a data-management system. The strategy recommends methods for analyzing existing data sets and conducting additional research, with detailed descriptions. We demonstrate how Tasks 1–4 support the recommendations in the strategy.

This document is part of a 4 document series | 4 of 4

Document 1 of 4: Task 1, Research Priorities
Document 2 of 4: Task 2, Annotated Bibliography
Document 3 of 4: Task 3, Existing Datasets
>> Document 4 of 4: Tasks 4-5, Final Document