the way it was in suburban habitats

Roger Kuhlman rkuhlman at
Tue Jan 22 12:02:03 EST 2002


Thanks for relating these experiences. I am seeing the same effects you 
describe here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over the past twenty to thirty years, 
several pieces of agricultural land enjoining or in Ann Arbor that had been 
farmed, stopped being farmed. Natural succession followed, and a productive 
for butterflies old field habitat developed. Now these parcels are being 
converted to housing developments, office complexes, strip malls, and 
developed recreational parks featuring plenty of grass and much pavement but 
many fewer butterfly species.

Roger Kuhlman
Ann Arbor, Michigan

>    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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