Rangeland management strategies impact biodiversity, the quality and quantity of ecosystem services, and overall rangeland resiliency. Previous management strategies, coupled with climate change, have led to widespread invasion by Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis; bluegrass) in the Northern Great Plains, United States. Bluegrass invasions are expected to have detrimental impacts on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services provided by rangelands. Yet none have investigated how bluegrass invasions influence pollinator populations, which are a prominent conservation concern and provide ecosystem services. We measured the impact of bluegrass invasion on mixed-grass prairie forb and butterfly communities. Obligate grassland butterflies, those that rely on grasslands, decreased as bluegrass cover increased, including the threatened Hesperia dacotae. Conversely, the abundance of facultative grassland butterflies, those found in grasslands but not fully dependent on them for their life history, increased as bluegrass increased. Moreover, plant species diversity and flowering forb species richness decreased as bluegrass cover increased. Overall, bluegrass invasion led to butterfly and plant community simplification, signaling a loss of biodiversity and potentially ecosystem services. Our research is the first to quantify how grassland butterflies and the floral resources they depend on are negatively impacted by bluegrass invasion. Resource managers should adopt management strategies that reduce bluegrass cover and improve nectar and host resources for obligate grassland butterflies. Management choices that removed disturbance regimes inherent to the Northern Great Plains (i.e., fire and grazing) led to bluegrass dominance in the region. Therefore, restoring disturbance regimes may be one way to reduce bluegrass and benefit pollinator populations.
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