• Insect, bird surveys gauge environment

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center out of Vicksburg, Miss., headed the study.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    In May and June 2018, insect and bird surveys were conducted on post by Army survey teams and the results were received in late November 2018 by Neil Bass, Department of Public Works natural resources specialist.
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center out of Vicksburg, Miss., headed the study.
    “The purpose of the Army natural resources program is to maintain the natural resources on post so that it is usable for training for the Army. Everything is like a canary in the coalmine. You can look at your insect species (or birds) and over time, you can tell whether a change is occurring in the habitat just as you can do that using the vegetation or even our larger animals. This is like your finger on the pulse of the habitat on post,” Bass said.
    “There is also the aspect that the Army has to follow all these federal rules and regulations, especially the Endangered Species Act. Knowing if you have a species of concern or an endangered species can allow us to try to preserve those things, which can eliminate restrictions down the road or it can also allow us to avoid areas that would have a negative impact to certain species. You can’t avoid those areas or benefit species if you don’t even know you have them around. That’s what these general surveys are about.”
    The insect survey was conducted June 11-13, 2018, the first terrestrial or land insect survey ever conducted on post. The most recent survey on post that targeted insects was a survey of American burying beetles more than 15 years ago, Bass said.
    The survey, conducted by three researchers from the ERDC, used six different sampling methods including Berlese funnel traps, Lindgren funnels, malaise traps, pitfall traps, sweepnetting and blacklighting. The habitat surveyed included the upland forest, the floodplain forest, the prairie remnant and the planted prairie, Bass said. In all, more than 5,000 insects were captured representing more than 180 taxonomic families.
    “The greatest diversity was found in the floodplain forest,” Bass said. “Beetles were the most abundant followed by true bugs, wasps and flies. Beetles were also the most diverse with 55 families, followed by flies and true bugs with 32 and 26 families, respectively.”
    Bass said the multiple types of insects found are all beneficial to the environment.
    “All of (these insects) provide food for other things,” Bass said. “Insects are at the bottom of the animal protein food chain … It is all part of the cycle of life, which is pretty cool.”
    The survey also was important in finding out whether Fort Levenworth is home to certain insects that are part of the Endangered Species Act or candidates for the Endangered Species Act. One such concern is the monarch butterfly.
    Page 2 of 3 - “There is a huge concern about pollinator decline,” Bass said. “They won’t be listed because of anything bad and they won’t be saved because of anything good we do here on Fort Leavenworth. We alone cannot fix it, but we do things that do benefit them.”
    Most recently, Bass, along with several volunteers, planted more than 200 native flowering plants in the grassland inside Chief Joseph Loop Oct. 11, 2018, for National Public Lands Day. These plants help to provide food and habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
    The bird survey, which focused on breeding neotropical migrant birds, was conducted May 30 through June 4, 2018, for the first time since 2003. Through sighting and hearing, it was conducted in the floodplain forest by one researcher from the ERDC.
    “The species information can indicate whether our habitat is changing and for better or worse,” Bass said.
    Both line transect and point count methods were used during the survey.
    The line transect surveys detected 649 birds of 44 different species. Of the 44 species, 22 were resident species and 22 were neotropical migrants.
    Nine of the 44 species are on the Partners in Flight watch list that are of conservation concern.
    The point-count survey detected 850 birds of 56 different species. Of the 56 species, 28 were resident species and 28 were neotropical migrants.
    Fifteen of the 56 species are part of the PIF list.
    From both methods, resident species with the highest count numbers included the northern cardinal, red-bellied woodpecker, Carolina wren, brown-headed cowbird and Eastern tufted titmouse.
    Neotropical migrants with the highest count numbers included American redstart, red-eyed vireo, indigo bunting, great-crested flycatcher, wood thrush and gray catbird.
    Species on the PIF list included Eastern wood-pewee, Acadian flycatcher, common yellowthroat, northern flicker, Kentucky warbler, chimney swift, red-headed woodpecker, and yellow-billed cuckoo.
    In comparison to the 2003 survey, the numbers were similar. Point-count surveys of the floodplain in 2003 detected 53 species in comparison to the 56 species in 2018. While many of the species were the same, the ring-necked pheasant, the lark sparrow and Eastern kingbird were not detected in 2018 like they were in 2003. In contrast, the house finch, chimney swift, cliff swallow, red-tailed hawk and ruby-throated hummingbird were detected in 2018 and not 2003.
    Following the results, the reports said the benefits of floodplain forest was a clear reason why Fort Leavenworth is vastly populated with so many species of insects and birds.
    “The ecological availability of (the Fort Leavenworth Military Reservation) to terrestrial insects is astonishing, and bottomland hardwoods, prairies and upland hardwood forests should be conserved and maintained in ways that promote this biodiversity, which will benefit not only the insects themselves, but each interdependent animal and plant that rely on insects for food or pollination,” according to the insect report prepared by ERDC Research Entomologists Audrey Harrison and Reese Worthington, and ERDC Research Fisheries Biologist William Slack.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Use of these habitats for hiking, horseback riding and bird watching is highly encouraged as these activities allow for the appreciation of and attention to these habitats, which leads to their protection. Recent reports on the status of worldwide insect richness and diversity are dismal and alarming. Natural areas, such as those on the FLMR are critical to the persistence of insects, both aquatic and terrestrial, and care should be taken to ensure the continued availability of these habitats for insects and the species that depend on them.”
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