Use prescribed fire to maintain or restore disturbance in forests

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

     

  • Three studies evaluated the effects on butterflies and moths of using prescribed fire to maintain or restore disturbance in forests. All three studies were in the USA.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE (3 STUDIES)

  • Richness/diversity (3 studies): Three studies (including two controlled studies, one before-and-after study, and one site comparison study) in the USA found that coniferous forest restored 1–2 years ago by burning (in combination with thinning) or burned once within the last 20 years, had a higher species richness of butterflies than unburned forest.

POPULATION RESPONSE (2 STUDIES)

  • Abundance (2 studies): Two studies (including one controlled, before-and-after study and one site comparison study) in the USA found that pine forest restored 1–2 years ago by burning (in combination with thinning) had a higher abundance of butterflies than unburned forest.

BEHAVIOUR (0 STUDIES)

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A site comparison study in 1998 in two pine forests in Arizona, USA (Waltz & Covington 1999) found that a forest restored by prescribed burning and thinning young trees had a higher abundance and species richness of butterflies than an unrestored forest. Two years after burning and thinning, the restored forest had a higher abundance (6–46 individuals/visit) and species richness (3–11 species/visit) of butterflies than the unrestored forest (abundance: 0–7 individuals/visit; richness: 0–4 species/visit). One species, the checkered white Pieris protodice, was only found in the restored forest, but another, the California sister Limenitis bredowii, was only found in the unrestored forest. In 1996, a 40-acre ponderosa pine Pinus ponderosa forest was burned and thinned (pole-sized trees removed) to reopen the dense understorey. An adjacent forest was not restored. From May–July 1998, butterflies were surveyed six times (every two weeks) along a single 450-m transect in each forest.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, controlled study in 1998–1999 in two upland coniferous forest reserves in Oregon and California, USA (Huntzinger 2003) found that sites subjected to prescribed burning had more species of butterfly than unburned sites. In forest patches which had been burned once in the last 1–19 years, there were more species of butterfly (11–14 species/patch) than in patches not burned for at least 20 years (4–7 species/patch). There were also more species in burned “fuel-break” corridors (16 species/site) than in unburned corridors (1 species/site) and in riparian strips burned in the last 1–13 years (25 species/site) than in unburned strips (10 species/site). Butterfly species diversity was 0.5–8 times higher in the burned habitats than the unburned habitats (see paper for details). In Oregon, five upland forest patches were burned once between 1991 and 1997, and five patches were unburned since at least 1978. Five wide, shaded, corridors of thinned vegetation (“fuel breaks”) were burned and four were unburned (no dates given). In California, five upland forest patches were burned once between 1980 and 1998, and seven patches were unburned. Four riparian strips were burned once from 1986–1998, and five strips were unburned (no date given). Butterflies were surveyed along one 240-m transect/site, six times from late June–August 1998 in Oregon, and five times from late June–August 1999 in California.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated, randomized, paired, controlled, before-and-after study in 1997–2001 in a pine forest in Arizona, USA (Waltz & Covington 2004) found that forests restored by prescribed burning and thinning had a higher abundance and species richness of butterflies than unrestored forests. One and two years after burning and thinning, restored forests had a higher butterfly abundance (48–132 individuals/unit) and species richness (7–16 species/unit) than unrestored forests (abundance: 10–42 individuals/unit; richness: 4–10 species/unit). Before restoration, there was no significant difference between forest marked for restoration (abundance: 23–50 individuals/unit; richness: 8–12 species/unit) and unrestored forest (abundance: 10–41 individuals/unit; richness: 5–13 species/unit). These results were primarily due to the abundance of species of blue (Lycaenidae) and white (Pieridae) butterflies (see paper for details). In 1997, four blocks within a 5,000-ha ponderosa pine Pinus ponderosa forest were each divided into two units (≤40-ha each). In autumn/winter 1999–2000, one randomly assigned unit/block was burned and thinned. The other units were not restored. From May–August 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001, butterflies were surveyed six times/year (two-week intervals) along two or three 300-m transects/unit.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Bladon A.J., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2022) Butterfly and Moth Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for butterflies and moths. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

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Butterfly and Moth Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Butterfly and Moth Conservation
Butterfly and Moth Conservation

Butterfly and Moth Conservation - Published 2022

Butterfly and Moth Synopsis

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