Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Beautiful Butterfly on Brink of Revival, Despite Century of Threats

Michael Sainato | July 21, 2015 04:31pm ET

Michael Sainato is a freelancer with credits including the MiamiHerald, The Huffington Post and The Hill. Follow him on Twitter at @msainat1. Sainato contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Formed nearly 12,000 years ago by a receding glacial lake, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve in New York hosts a rare ecosystem, one of only 20 inland pine barrens in the world. Its sand dunes hold a unique variety of habitats, yet nutrient-poor soils, that support a diverse range of plants and animals that thrive in an environment too barren to support competing species. 

Karner Blue Butterflies in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.
Credit: Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission
This unusual landscape, surrounded by development, also holds within it an equally rare species: the endangered Karner blue butterfly, named by lepidopterist (and "Lolita" author) Vladimir Nabokov in 1944. And yet this U.S. National Natural Landmark seems always on the brink of destruction. In the face of large-scale development in the area, grassroots organizations like Save the Pine Bush have had to repeatedly rescue the park — and the blue lupine flowers that feed the local community of Karner butterflies — from annihilation. As with many endangered U.S. landscapes, threats from encroachment have been steady, dating back two centuries.

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