Max Spencer

A bioassessment of the butterflies and leafhoppers of the rare alvar ecosystem of the Maxton Plains Preserve

The alvar is an extremely rare ecosystem with remnants occurring only in the Great Lakes region of North America and Northern Europe. These northern grassland communities are found on bare limestone pavements (exposed bedrock) with little mineral soil remaining from glaciation.  These sites are critically imperiled worldwide and alvar found on Drummond Island, Michigan are the largest remaining high quality sites in North America. This preserve contains an unusual mix of rare prairie and arctic species of which several species are considered threatened with extinction. Our objective was to perform an inventory of key bioindicators, the Lepidoptera (butterflies) and Homoptera (leafhoppers) which form close associations with host plants and their assessed richness of species reflect the overall ecological integrity (“health”) of these sites.  We also assessed the influence of vehicle traffic from a road that bisects the site.  Preliminary results indicate the occurrence of rare butterflies and prairie endemic leafhoppers. In addition the unimproved road may be reducing the populations of these threatened species by the production of fine limestone dust.

Faculty Mentor: James Dunn, Biology

Page last modified August 2, 2013