Summer Research

* Student(s): Jane Fitzgerald
Advisor: William Pfitsch

Title: The Effect of Tree Removal on Wild Blue Lupine


The Frosted Elfin butterfly is an endangered species in New York State. It relies on the wild blue lupine plant (Lupinus perennius) as a source of food for its larvae and as a place to lay its eggs. The Frosted Elfin exist in limited numbers in the Rome Sand Plains (RSP.) The decline in Frosted Elfin populations is correlated with a decline in wild blue lupine there. This project studies the possible causes of the decline in lupine, in order to find ways to increase the lupine population, and therefore the Frosted Elfin population. Our hypothesis is that the lupine is being shaded out by recent increase in larger trees (specifically White Pine trees.) In 2002, eighteen white pine trees were chosen for this study, all of which had lupine populations beneath them. Nine of the eighteen trees were randomly selected to be removed and nine were left as the control population. Measurements of lupine cover, ground cover, tree seedlings, and canopy openness were taken in the summers of 2002, 2003, and 2004 from both the control and the cut plots. We also found a statistically significant increase in the number of plants from 2002 to 2004 in the cut plots, as opposed to those in the control plots. Although statistically significant differences were not found in 2003, by 2004 it became clear that the treatment (removal of trees) had a significant effect, slowing the rate of lupine extinction. We conclude that the removal of trees which shade lupine populations would help restore the habitat of the Frosted Elfin.

Research by JF supported by the Ralph E. Hansmann Science Student Support Fund