Plants constitute the essential core of the ecosystem. Without plants, habitat exists only as an inhospitable void. Knowing that vegetation plays such an integral part in ecosystem function, we keep a close eye on the current state and subsequent changes in vegetation. One facet of vegetation research is vegetation data collection across MPG.
A grid of 560 sampling points covers MPG, with each point separated by about 200 yards. We visit each point to gather data on plant communities. At each point we set up 4 transects, each 50 feet long. Botanists record the plant species encountered at each foot. The reports in this section discuss how we categorize plant communities and the relationships between plant communities and other kinds of organisms.
As we continue to layer data onto this sampling grid we will post new discussions of interactions between plant communities and new groups of organisms. Rebecca Durham, one of the botanists that conducted the original survey, is revisiting many of the points to document lichen and moss community composition.
The monarchs have arrived! 17 eggs and caterpillars are currently being raised on the Ranch. All caterpillars are growing rapidly; they are just about to pupate and form their chrysalises. When they emerge as adults, we want to celebrate their release with the public.
Their development is not clock-work (it is actually temperature dependent). If you are interested in attending our butterfly release event on the MPG Ranch, email Maggie at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will contact you as the time gets closer to confirm a date and time to meet. We expect it to be between August 9th and 16th.
MPG Monarch Butterfly Monitoring
MPG Ranch initiated a monarch conservation and monitoring program to better understand the ecology of monarchs in the Bitterroot valley. Milkweed plants (Asclepiasspecies) are the monarch larvae’s obligate host plants, meaning the caterpillars only eat milkweed and the adults will only lay eggs on the plants. Part of the program’s efforts in this first year have been to propagate showy milkweed (A. speciosa) across the Ranch. MPG Field Crew transplanted several hundred root cuttings, which have now taken hold and are sprouting. Milkweed occurs on roadsides, in parks, and gardens. However, the general wide-spread reduction of milkweed across the monarch’s breeding range is one of the leading causes of the monarch’s decline.
Monarchs are currently making their journey north and east from their overwintering grounds. The second generation has already emerged, with adults reported as far north as the Oregon / Washington border as of mid-May. You can follow their migration in real-time at www.journeynorth.com.
MPG will be monitoring milkweed populations from Missoula to Stevensville. If you know of a patch of milkweed, let us know! We will also be rearing the caterpillars through all stages of metamorphosis, to tag the adults with stickers once they emerge. Our hope is to recover a tag or tag sighting to better understand their migration routes. If you would like to be a part of the tagging process, reach out to us. We are expecting monarch eggs anytime starting mid-June. There are also opportunities to help us in our monitoring efforts across the valley, or we can train you to monitor your own native milkweed.
Some of the best ways you can help monarchs:
Plant milkweeds and other native flowering plants to provide nectar for adults and food for the caterpillars. In Missoula and Ravalli counties, showy milkweed (A. speciosa)is the native milkweed, but several other milkweed species are found in Montana. You could also try planting swamp or rose milkweed (A. incarnata). Just as monarchs are obligate feeders of milkweed, many other butterfly species have evolved intimate connections with a limited number (sometimes only one) native plant species. Planting native gardens will help all native wildlife.
Do NOT use chemicals – fertilizers, composts, weed spray, etc. – to grow your garden or maintain your lawn.
Report your milkweed and monarch sightings at www.monarchmilkweedmapper.org. to contribute to nation-wide studies of their migration and habitat. Sightings recorded here will also be shared with Journey North.