About Them: These are of the family Riodinidae. Their habitat is only along the southern side of the San Joaquin River in Antioch within the constantly shifting sand dunes. They, like the plants they rely on, are endemic to this small range. They need the Naked Stemmed Buckwheat plant to feed and reproduce. Without this plant they will not lay eggs. They also feed from the Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose and the Contra Costa Wallflower.
They continue to survive because in 1980 55 acres were established as the Antioch National Wildlife Refuge to protect this extremely unique habitat allowing the butterfly some needed habitat.
Their plight: This butterfly lives in an extremely narrow range. The land compares to the Galapagos in its specificity and unique species that live within it. Unfortunately it was an easily accessible location, with sand that was perfect for making bricks which, were needed to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. This drastically changed the environment. Then it became an industrial area with fossil-fueled energy plants surrounding the National Wildlife Refuge, inadvertently adding too much nitrogen to the sand/soil. This extra nitrogen hinders the growth of the native plants and helps the non-natives to flourish taking over the land area which also limits the space for the native plants.
What is being done: They have a captive breeding program going but, they aren’t able to make it self sustaining. They still need to gather females from the wild each year.
They have also begun to add sand back to the dunes from dredging of the river. Amazingly this actually helps the environment and the industry in the area. The industry doesn’t have to pay to have someone take the sand which, they need to clear so ships can pass and the refuge gets free sand it really needs to help rebuild the habitat that was disturbed.
They regularly do non-native plant removal as well. This is done by hand, with a weed-wacker or with weed killer. They do their best to use the weed killer sparingly but, there are times when it is needed.
How to help: Bring awareness and educate others. Call into state senators when legislation is being passed that could affect the continued support of policy that protects wildlife, waterways and lands. Support locally.
Support can be:
- donating to science groups
- helping to ensure funding to the organizations that creating breeding programs
- being a citizen scientist through
- land restoration project
- trash clean ups
- species counts
- bio blitzes
- getting people you know excited about how incredible our planet’s biodiversity is.
Joining your local Audubon Society is a great first step into finding activities and ways to become a citizen scientist and environmental advocate.
Further Reading, my sources:
https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Antioch_Dunes/ (note, no substantial access to the public)
[This is a blog of my opinions. I speak for myself. I am a one person team and if I have misinterpreted a fact or made an error please feel free to get in touch to correct me. I will make edits and updates to post. I would appreciate corrections to be polite. I will not engage in hate.]