the way it was in suburban habitats

Chris J. Durden drdn at
Tue Jan 22 02:13:17 EST 2002

    Then again there is the exurban enrichment phenomenon. As the city 
expands, farmers at the edge of the suburbs, sell their land to 
speculators. The land lies fallow. Sucession progresses. Rare butterflies 
build up their populations. Lepidopterists find their favorite and most 
productive sites. Speculators sell to developers who raze the shrub and 
herb growth, with wholesale extermination of Lepidoptera. Homeowners try to 
establish butterfly gardens to attract the remaining hardy species.
    A representative spot, here in Austin known as Stillhouse Hollow (8 
miles NW of the State Capitol) had light agricultural use (grazing) through 
1974. It was then held by land speculators and became a wonderful set of 
diverse habitats yielding a number of multiple occurrences of rare 
butterfly species not found elsewhere in the Austin area. It was also the 
site of a large encampment of the "Reagan homeless" during that episode. In 
the 1980's development encroached on the uplands. The lower part of the 
hollow was lost to development (houses and condos) in the 1990's, the upper 
part was lost to development (houses) in 2000. All that remains are two 
tiny City Nature Reserves, one accessible to the public, the other closed 
off because of its newly described but not yet Federally listed salamander 
species. The prime butterfly habitats are gone. I have kept records on 
about fifty sites like this as I am watching them be absorbed by the city.
..............Chris Durden

At 09:13 PM 1/21/2002 -0500, you wrote:
> >I think it is curious that when lepidopterists are especially motivated 
> to find butterflies in suburban habitats (such as when trying to document 
> species occurrence in hopes of blocking land development
> >plans) they may have remarkably good luck.
>This does not seem remarkable to me, depending on what you define as 
>"suburban".  The suburbs are sprawling out so far into such wild areas 
>that it would not be hard to find a pretty good piece of land that is not 
>at all suburban now but about to become so.


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