Some butterfly species particularly vulnerable to climate change: study

Jun 01, 2012
This butterfly, whose common name is the Southern Gatekeeper, was studied by researchers to help determine how climate change may affect insect survival. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)

A recent study of the impact of climate change on butterflies suggests that some species might adapt much better than others, with implications for the pollination and herbivory associated with these and other insect species.

The research, published in Ecological Entomology, examined changes in the life cycles of butterflies at different elevations of a mountain range in central Spain. They served as a model for some of the changes expected to come with warming temperatures, particularly in mountain landscapes.

The researchers found that butterfly species which already tend to emerge later in the year or fly higher in the mountains have evolved to deal with a shorter window of opportunity to reproduce, and as a result may fare worse in a warming climate, compared to those that emerge over a longer time period.

"Insects and plants are at the base of the and are extremely important, but they often get less attention when we are studying the ecological ," said Javier G. Illan, with the Department of 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 , 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.

Explore further: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate adaptation difficult for Europe's birds

Jan 17, 2012

Åke Lindström is Professor of Animal Ecology at Lund University, Sweden. Together with other European researchers he has looked at 20 years' worth of data on birds, butterflies and summer temperatures. During this ...

Climate change makes butterflies more frequent flyers

Feb 08, 2011

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 ...

Biodiversity can promote survival on a warming planet

Nov 04, 2011

Whether a species can evolve to survive climate change may depend on the biodiversity of its ecological community, according to a new mathematical model that simulates the effect of climate change on plants ...

Recommended for you

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

Sep 19, 2014

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

Asian stars enlisted to fight African rhino poaching

Sep 19, 2014

Increasingly desperate South African conversationists are turning to a multi-national team of "rhino ambassadors" to try to end the scourge of poaching—and Vietnamese pop diva Hong Nhung has been recruited ...

Tropical fish a threat to Mediterranean Sea ecosystems

Sep 18, 2014

The tropical rabbitfish which have devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea pose a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin if their distribution continues to expand as the climate ...

User comments : 0