A commercial development was planned for a site in Muskegon County, Michigan, with known Karner blue butterfly (KBB) (Lycaides melissa samuelis) habitat. Endangered species survey and management actions were required so that the KBB and the habitat upon which they depend in this region were preserved.
GEI was contracted by Dawda, Mann, Mulcahy & Sadler, PLC to conduct an assessment of potential KBB (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) presence on or near the subject +30acre property located in Whitehall Township, Muskegon County, Michigan. The KBB is a federally endangered species with recorded populations near the project area. The first task completed included a vegetation community assessment focused on the identification of habitat suitable to support native threatened and endangered species. Following the initial habitat assessment, a Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) was conducted to identify potential protected species and to evaluate the ecological quality of habitats on the site.
Portions of the site were comprised of a high-quality oak-pine barrens natural community. Dominant tree species included black oak (Quercus velutina), white oak (Q. alba), and various pines (Pinus spp.). The trees exhibited a diverse age structure, including several large, wide-canopied oaks that indicated the historic presence of oak-pine barrens or similar habitats on the site. The ground layer was dominated by Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), June grass (Koeleria macrantha), broom sedge (Andropogon virginicus), and spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa). The ground layer also contained significant populations of sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) and lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), hairy bush clover (Lespedeza hirta), and horsemint (Monarda punctata). Several uncommon species characteristic of high-quality oak-pine barrens were observed, including prickly-pear (Opuntia humifusa), racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama), hyssop hedge nettle (Stachys hyssopifolia), and goat’s rue (Tephrosia virginiana).
Surrounding the oak-pine barrens on site were areas of early-successional northern dry-mesic forest. Openings within the canopy contained populations of wild lupine (Lupinus perennis). The areas of northern dry-mesic forest likely developed during a period of fire suppression within the oak-pine barren habitat.
After completing a multi-seasonal habitat assessment, the oak-pine barrens habitat was found to have a native species richness of 67 (92 total species), a native mean C of 4.4, and a native FQI of 36.2. The northern dry-mesic forest had a native species richness of 49 (68 total species), a native mean C of 4.1, and a native FQI of 28.4.