Climate change makes butterflies more frequent flyers

Feb 08, 2011 By Roelof Kleis

Thanks to climate change, butterflies are flying more frequently, further and longer. This makes it easier for them to cope with a fragmented landscape, says Wageningen University doctoral researcher Anouk Cormont in an article in Biodiversity and Conservation.

Over the course of a couple of summers, Cormont tracked in De Hoge Veluwe national park near Deelen airfield. She studied the small heath butterfly, the meadow brown, the heath fritillary and the silver-studded blue. She followed several hundred butterflies for half an hour each, recording their flight paths with a GPS. Correlating these data with produced interesting insights into the possible effects of climate change.


And this is Cormont's theme: the effects of the changing climate on the distribution of butterfly species in the Netherlands. The fragmentation of the Dutch landscape poses a threat to biodiversity. Habitats are becoming too small or are disappearing altogether. One attempt to stem this fragmentation is the establishment of the Ecological Main Structure. And it turns out that climate change is lending a helping hand, Cormont's research has suggested.

Fair-weather flyers

Butterflies are fair-weather flyers. And climate change will lead to more dry and sunny periods: perfect butterfly weather, in other words. Cormont shows that butterflies do indeed fly more often and for longer periods, covering greater distances, in this kind of weather. This increases their chances of being able to jump from one area to another, and thus their capacity to colonize new habitats. Cormont also examined the butterflies' flight behavior outside their own habitats. "Butterflies then flit around less and fly a straighter course. Because they are in search of a suitable habitat."

The right direction

The last thing this means, according to Cormont, is that the Ecological Main Structure is superfluous. "That would be the wrong conclusion to draw. The potential distribution of butterflies is enlarged by and that is important in highly fragmented areas. But butterflies often have no idea where the suitable habitats are. So you have to steer them in the right direction: by creating linked lines of foliage such as flowery file edges and road verges, for example."

Explore further: Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

Related Stories

England's butterflies are at risk

Mar 05, 2006

England's butterflies are increasingly at risk, with the number of farmland butterflies declining by 30 percent over the last 10 years, a study finds.

Monarchs fly south for the winter

Sep 12, 2005

As many as 300 million monarch butterflies are now flying south from Canada and the northern United States to winter in Mexico and Southern California.

Where Have All the Butterflies Gone?

May 08, 2006

Cold, wet conditions early in the year mean that 2006 is shaping up as the worst year for California's butterflies in almost four decades, according to Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis.

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new 'transformer frog' in Ecuador

14 hours ago

It doesn't turn into Prince Charming, but a new species of frog discovered in Ecuador has earned the nickname "transformer frog" for its ability to change its skin from spiny to smooth in five minutes.

US gives threatened status to northern long-eared bat

17 hours ago

The federal government said Wednesday that it is listing the northern long-eared bat as threatened, giving new protections to a species that has been nearly wiped out in some areas by the spread of a fungal ...

Mice sing like songbirds to woo mates

17 hours ago

Male mice sing surprisingly complex songs to seduce females, sort of like songbirds, according to a new Duke study appearing April 1 in the Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience.

A new crustacean species found in Galicia

18 hours ago

One reason that tourists are attracted to Galicia is for its food. The town of O Grove (Pontevedra) is well known for its Seafood Festival and the Spider Crab Festival. A group of researchers from the University ...

Ants in space find it tougher going than those on Earth

19 hours ago

(—The results of a study conducted to see how well ants carry out their search activities in space are in, and the team that sent them there has written and published the results in the journal ...

Rats found able to recognize pain in other rat faces

19 hours ago

(—A team of researchers working in Japan with affiliations to several institutions in that country, has found that lab rats are able to recognize pain in the faces of other rats and avoid them ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.