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Can butterflies survive global warming?

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Warming temperatures may be disrupting the seasonal flight of butterflies. bberwyn photo.

Long-term record shows how warmer temperatures alters seasonal flight timing

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Some Colorado butterflies are already feeling the impacts of global warming, and new research suggests that the problems may become more widespread for the insects, which are dependent on specific plants for early season food.

The flight-season timing of a wide variety of butterflies is responsive to temperature and could be altered by climate change, said a team of researchers, who used more than a century’s worth of museum and weather records to make their findings. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Drought, landscape fragmentation pose greatest threats to UK butterfly population

Landscape-level conservation projects critical to giving species some resilience in the face of climate change

A UK study suggests that large areas of intact habitat is the best way to buffer butterfly populations from extreme weather impacts. Photo courtesy Friedrich Böhringer via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The gradual rise in global temperatures may have long-term effects on biodiversity, but some species — including UK butterflies — may be more threatened by extreme weather events related to climate change. Events like drought could push some insects toward extinction.

“We have provided the first evidence that species responses to extreme events may be affected by the habitat structure in the wider countryside; for example in the total area and fragmentation of woodland patches,” said lead author Dr. Tom Oliver from the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

The UK has suffered from a number of severe droughts over the last few decades, including in 1976 and 1995. Under global warming, the frequency of such summer droughts is expected to increase. The intense summer drought in 1995 led to marked declines in insect species associated with cooler and wetter microclimates and scientists are interested in how to make species populations more resilient, so they can recover from extreme climate events. Continue reading

British butterfly thrives with global warming

A brown argus butterfly in Lincolnshire, UK. Photo via Wikipedia and the GNU Free Documentation License.

Brown argus finds new food and expands range, showing how climate change will have winners and losers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A butterfly once thought to be threatened by global warming has changed its diet and increased its range, showing how some species may be able to adapt to a changing climate.

“There will be winners and losers from climate change,” said University of York professor Jane Hill, one of the co-authors of the study published this week in Science. “It is important that we begin to understand how the complex interactions between species affect their ability to adapt to climate change so we can identify those that might be at risk and where to focus conservation efforts.”

The researchers found that warmer summers have allowed the brown argus butterfly to complete its life cycle by eating wild Geranium plants. Because the Geraniums are widespread in the British countryside, this change in diet has allowed the butterfly to expand its range in Britain at a surprisingly rapid rate. Over the past 20 years, the Brown Argus has spread northwards by around 79 kilometres and has become common in the countryside in much of southern England. Continue reading

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