Ecological effects of stream flow permanence on butterfly and plant communities of Sonoran Desert streams
Stream flow permanence plays a critical role in determining floristic composition, abundance, and diversity in the Sonoran Desert, but questions remain about the effects of stream flow permanence on butterfly composition, abundance, and diversity. Understanding the effects of flow permanence on butterflies and relevant subsets of butterflies (such as butterflies whose host plants are present) and comparing them to these same effects on plants and relevant subsets of plants (such as butterfly nectar plants and larval host plants) provided insight into pollinator and riparian conservation and restoration.
I surveyed four Sonoran desert stream sites, and found significant relationships between flow permanence and plant and butterfly species richness and abundance, as well as strong relationships between plant and butterfly abundance and between plant and butterfly species richness. Most notably, my results pointed to hosted butterflies as a break-out category of butterflies which may more clearly delineate ecological relationships between butterfly and plant abundance and diversity along Sonoran Desert streams; this can inform conservation decisions. Managing for hosted (resident) butterflies will necessarily entail managing for the presence of surface water, nectar forage, varying levels of canopy cover, and plant, nectar plant, and host plant diversity since the relationships between hosted butterfly species richness and/or abundance and all of these variables were significant, both statistically and ecologically.