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Spotlight- Barrens Research Guides Land Protection Efforts In Clinton County

In 1993, the Clinton County Natural Heritage Inventory, completed by the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program noted an area of pitch pine-scrub oak barrens on the rolling terrain of the High Allegheny Plateau about 13 miles west-northwest of Lock Haven.

Occupying both public and private lands, this site is known as Slaughtering Grounds Barrens. From early surveys, it appeared unique but little was known about its biodiversity value, and even today the origin of the name remains a mystery.

The PNHP is a partnership between the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Game Commission, the Fish and Boat Commission, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

PNHP provides current, reliable, objective information to inform decision-making, guide conservation work and promote land-use planning that maximizes conservation benefit and reduces cost.

With funding from DCNR, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy undertook a study to provide expanded information on Slaughtering Grounds Barrens involving Bureau of Forestry lands.

The study looked for unique insect species across many biological groups to determine if the barrens should receive additional protection and management efforts. In order to tackle a project of this magnitude, PNHP partnered with experts at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The project was labor-intensive, involving installation of traps that required repair and mending from the weather and interested animals, most notably black bear. Over 11,000 specimens were collected over the course of two field seasons. 

To date, a subset of over 5,000 of these have been  identified and entered into the CMNH database. Emphasis for identification was placed on certain families of moths, beetles, and flies. Unidentified specimens are preserved in CMNH collections as a resource for future insect and conservation research.

A CMNH report summarizes the collection results and notes interesting finds. As typical of these habitats, the variety of insects was low but a number of rare species lent credence to this being a very unique place in the state.

In addition to 16 species of crane flies (Tipulidae) and more than 100 species of scarab beetles, the Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) showed the greatest diversity among the focus groups and provided several exciting finds.

A total of 4,157 specimens were identified and yielded 354 unique species. Fifteen moth and two butterfly species of special concern were documented. The butterflies Edwards’ hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii) and brown elfin (Callophrys augustinus) are found at sites with abundant food plants for their caterpillars, scrub oak and blueberries respectively.

Several moths were found that had not been seen during extensive surveys in Western Pennsylvania over the last 30 years, including the boreal sprawler moth (Brachionycha borealis). Nine species were new records for Clinton County and one species of looper moth (Euchlaena milnei) may be a new state record for Pennsylvania.

These findings confirm the moth community present at Slaughtering Ground Barrens is indeed unusual.

This study represented an opportunity for targeted research to guide land conservation and management efforts on public and private lands. When it is completed, the study report will be publicly available through the PNHP website.

(Provided by the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy)


8/27/2012

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