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Habitat Restoration Helps Many Species

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) uses a variety of techniques to restore lands to a different time – a time before mass land use changes. The lands protected within the System of Natural Areas provide a glimpse of what Arkansas once was like. They also serve as a blueprint that guides restoration efforts, as it helps to know what the end product looks like before you attempt restoration.

The importance of restoration has become a hot topic when discussing the recovery of northern bobwhite (quail) and monarch butterfly populations. Both have experienced substantial population declines, which have been mostly attributed to the loss of quality habitat.

When changes to land use occur, the types of plants and their rate of growth can change, which can negatively impact the habitat of some animal species. For example, both monarchs and quail need diverse habitat. In very simple terms, monarchs need native plants for nectar sources (forbs) and native milkweeds for laying eggs. Quail need a variety of food sources provided by a diversity of native plants (forbs and grasses) that produce seeds and attract insects while providing quality habitat for nesting, brooding, and protection from predators.

The right management techniques implemented on natural areas and during restoration of disturbed lands can benefit many plant and animal species, and animal habitat requirements often overlap. Areas that support native plants managed by prescribed burning rather than bush-hogs and herbicide, help create the desired plant diversity and structure needed by certain at-risk species, such as quail or rare butterflies. This maintenance and/or improvement on the landscape support and attract many at-risk animals as well as more common animals. For example, lands that support the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker also provide excellent habitat for deer, wild turkey, quail, and butterflies.

To turn around declining populations of plants and animals requires private landowners, industry, and government and non-government conservation groups to come together to determine a plan of action and implement strategic initiatives. This is exactly what is occurring now as Arkansas attempts to do more for declining species such as quail and monarch butterflies. If done correctly, these habitat improvements overall will benefit far more plants and animals than those discussed here and provide a healthier and more diverse Natural State.

By restoring lost habitat, we can help restore declining populations of species that were once plentiful in Arkansas. To find out more, please follow the links below:

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