Researchers try to pinpoint which species might be better able to adapt to global warming
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Global warming is expected to result in localized extinctions of up to one-third of all butterfly species, but others may be better equipped to adapt to a changing climate.
A recently published study concluded that butterflies which tend to emerge later in the year or fly higher in the mountains are probably more vulnerable becayse they have evolved to deal with a shorter window of opportunity to reproduce.
The findings have implications beyond just the survival of individual butterfly species, since their absence or presence has effects on pollination and other functions of herbaceous ecosystems.
“Insects and plants are at the base of the food pyramid and are extremely important, but they often get less attention when we are studying the ecological impacts of climate change,” said Javier G. Illan, with the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University.
“We’re already expecting localized extinctions of about one third of butterfly species, so we need to understand how climate change will affect those that survive,” he said. “This research makes it clear that some will do a lot better than others.”
Butterflies may be particularly sensitive to a changing climate, Illan said, and make a good model to study the broader range of ecological effects linked to insects. Their flight dates are a relevant indicator of future responses to climate change.
The research was done by Illan’s group in the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid. It examined 32 butterfly species for five years at various elevations in a Mediterranean mountain range, and the delays in flight dates that occurred as a result of elevation change.