Severe droughts could lead to widespread losses of butterflies by 2050

August 10, 2015
Speckled wood butterfly. One of six drought sensitive species analyzed in this study. Credit: Jim Asher

Widespread drought-sensitive butterfly population extinctions could occur in the UK as early as 2050 according to a new study published today in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

However, the authors conclude that substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions combined with better management of landscapes, in particular reducing , will greatly improve the chances of drought-sensitive butterflies flying until at least 2100.

The study was led by Dr Tom Oliver from the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) in collaboration with colleagues from CEH, the charity Butterfly Conservation, Natural England and the University of Exeter.

Lead author Dr Tom Oliver from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, "The results are worrying. Until I started this research, I hadn't quite realised the magnitude and potential impacts from . For drought-sensitive butterflies, and potentially other taxa, widespread population extinctions are expected by 2050. To limit these loses, both habitat restoration and reducing CO2 emissions have a role. In fact, a combination of both is necessary."

The team identified six species of drought-sensitive butterfly - ringlet, speckled wood, large skipper, large white, small white and green-veined white - as having a low probability of persistence by 2050 even under most favourable emissions scenario. Butterflies were chosen for this study as they are amongst the best studied groups of species with good records of year-to-year changes in abundance, but there are many other drought sensitive groups which may be similarly affected.

Dr Oliver adds, "We consider the average response across Great Britain. Losses are likely to be more severe in drier areas with more intensive land use, whilst wetter areas with less fragmented habitat will provide refugia. We assume that butterflies won't have time to evolve to become more drought-tolerant, because their populations are already small, and evolution would need to be very rapid. The study looked at butterflies but the conclusions are potentially valid for other species such as birds, beetles, moths and dragonflies."

The study combined data from data from 129 sites for 28 species monitored as part of UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, with historic climate data from the Central England Temperature and the England and Wales Rainfall monthly series, habitat data from UK Land Cover Map, and climate model projections from 17 global circulation models in the CMIP5 database. Impacts of four Representative Concentration Pathways (different global CO2 emission trajectories) were investigated.

Co-author Mike Morecroft from Natural England said, "There's good news and bad news here. The good news is that we can increase the resilience of species to climate change by improving our natural environment, particularly increasing areas of habitat and we are working hard at this. However, this approach will only work if climate change is limited by effective controls on greenhouse gas emissions."

Co-author Tom Brereton from Butterfly Conservation said, "The study highlights the pressing need to investigate local conservation measures that may help drought-sensitive butterflies to adapt and persist in our changing countryside."

Co-author Dr Chris Huntingford also from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, "Many climate projections indicate rapid increases in the frequency of severe drought events under all scenarios, but especially under the steepest rise in CO2 emissions. There is uncertainty in these projections, which we captured by considering outputs from seventeen different climate models. The overall results suggest that drought-sensitive are only likely to avoid widespread extinctions if CO2 emission levels are reduced below business-as-usual and, furthermore, this in combination with habitat restoration measures"

Co-author Dr Christel Prudhomme from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, 'This study highlights the benefits of much tighter discussion between researchers from physical and environmental science disciplines- between those who develop simulations of expected levels of future climate change, and those who can translate those projections into local impacts and potential adaptation strategies'

Explore further: UK butterfly populations threatened by extreme drought and landscape fragmentation

More information: Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2746

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22 comments

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AKron
2.5 / 5 (8) Aug 10, 2015
Dr. Oliver thinks butterflies in dry areas will suffer during a drought, and butterflies in wetter areas will be OK? What a novel idea!
gkam
3.2 / 5 (13) Aug 10, 2015
Your sarcasm shows us you missed the entire point of the article. We live courtesy of a Web of Life, which cleans our water, makes our Oxygen, and provides us with food. When we lose parts of that system, it becomes weaker, more fragile and susceptible to failure.

All those little parts affect each other. That's how they live and let others live as well. It is a balancing act, keeping us alive.

Technical ignorance and hubris will kill us.
denglish
2.2 / 5 (10) Aug 10, 2015
Another pay-per read, so that one cannot look deeper into the details.

There is uncertainty in these projections, which we captured by considering outputs from seventeen different climate models. The overall results suggest that drought-sensitive butterflies are only likely to avoid widespread extinctions if CO2 emission levels are reduced below business-as-usual and, furthermore, this in combination with habitat restoration measures"

And there you have it. Regardless of observational falsification and admitted non-understanding of other factors, CO2 makes another appearance in models as a life-take instead of a life-maker. The authors even admit the whole thing could be rubbish. However, the phys.org site will get hits!

Mother Nature cares not a whit for how cute you are. When its your time, its your time. She looks upon our anthropocentrism with the admiring smile of any loving mother; all the while knowing that there is nothing we can do to escape her.

denglish
2.1 / 5 (11) Aug 10, 2015
Seventeen different models used, each model using CO2 as the primary driver of climate sensitivity, all come to the conclusion that CO2 is bad. who knew?!?!?! If it wasn't so awful, it'd be...interesting.

The good news is, that its looking better and better that an El Nino event is coming; this will be great for California; our drought is about to get some relief!
jeffensley
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 10, 2015
the authors conclude that substantial greenhouse gas emission reductions...will greatly improve the chances of drought-sensitive butterflies flying until at least 2100.


These are the completely unsubstantiated and unscientific claims that turn reasonable people away from AGW "science".
HannesAlfven
1.8 / 5 (10) Aug 10, 2015
I look forward to the day when EVERY scientific theory is interpreted through the lens of CO2. Or, is that now?
gkam
2.8 / 5 (11) Aug 10, 2015
You kids try all the silly jokes and ruses you want: You are losing to reality.

We are going to stop AGW if we can, . . for our descendents.
denglish
2.1 / 5 (11) Aug 10, 2015
You kids try all the silly jokes and ruses you want: You are losing to reality.

We are going to stop AGW if we can, . . for our descendents.

When this is the strongest that the AGW crowd can muster, there must be something wrong with their position.
antigoracle
2 / 5 (8) Aug 10, 2015
...blah...blah....descendents

Yep, gskam is going to save the world, just not your descendants.
jim_xanara
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 11, 2015
Butterflies are coded language for those promoting the Holocaust Mythos, which persons are also promoting AGW. http://spiritofbu...locaust/
NiteSkyGerl
1 / 5 (7) Aug 11, 2015
He's right. Look at this one on Amazon. You can read it. Talks directly about "it's hard but we have to forge an identity and instinct with the nation of Israel" and is targeted towards those living in other countries. It also misidentifies the "Queen" on the cover as a Monarch butterfly. http://www.amazon...67050853
Vietvet
3.8 / 5 (10) Aug 11, 2015
@jim-xanara

Holocaust deniers rank with child molesters when handing out prizes for the worst scum on the face of the earth.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 11, 2015
@jim-xanara

Holocaust deniers rank with child molesters when handing out prizes for the worst scum on the face of the earth.
Lets not forget soulless psychopaths who comprise the bulk of either.

"The next morning, Fox's body was discovered outside of the building by a "frantic" neighbor, the dog's owner, Ronald Boisvert, told the Associated Press.

"Taped to the dead dog's body was a note, written on a torn piece of notebook paper.

"WE BEAT IT 2 DEATH lol! : ) HAHAHA!" it read, according to the Pembroke Pines Police Department."
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 12, 2015
Somebody here is trying to tell us something about himself. It seems to be very difficult. He uses dopplegangers as substitutes for himself when he asks for help in his own offensive way.

Already having started the therapy by admitting he is a lowly sniper, hiding behind pseudonyms, playing "games" with the Decent Folk, he now needs the rest of us to encourage his therapy and road to psychological health, if possible.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Aug 12, 2015
Somebody here is trying to tell us something about himself. It seems to be very difficult. He uses dopplegangers as substitutes for himself when he asks for help in his own offensive way.

Already having started the therapy by admitting he is a lowly sniper, hiding behind pseudonyms, playing "games" with the Decent Folk, he now needs the rest of us to encourage his therapy and road to psychological health, if possible.
Cross posting is against physorg policy. Another rule you think youre exempt from?

Lying, Cheating Psychopaths are Not Decent Folk.

Take responsibility for exposing your family by posting your real name. Stop blaming others for your own stupidity.

Post your complete CV on your website so you dont have to misrepresent your 'experience' as anything besides what it was... a train wreck.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 12, 2015
Help is on the way, otto. Your hate and fixations can be cured, but it will not be easy. You will still dream of me a lot.

I like your attention, otto, but the others here are really sick of your silly psychological fixation on punishing me for letting you discredit yourself.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Aug 12, 2015
Help is on the way, otto. Your hate and fixations can be cured, but it will not be easy. You will still dream of me a lot
I dream of the day when lying, cheating, psychopathic predators no longer exist.

In the meantime I will continue to dog you and remind the good posters here just what you are and what youve done.
I like your attention, otto
Well of course you do. That profound disconnect s part of your debility.

"Attention – the Narcissistic component...any sort of attention, love or hate, either will do. So long as others are engaged and focussed on the Psychopath. The Psychopath hates to be ignored. Psychopath hates being alone, dislikes living on its own as a single person."

-You misinterpret revulsion as admiration. How can the general public not admire your greatness?

Past supervisors fired you because they could not stand to be in the presence of someone so obviously more capable than them.

Right?

All 20 of them.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 12, 2015
but the others here are really sick
-Is this why you are getting little else but ones? Is this why your rating dropped a full point in the last week?

Psychopaths are skilled at ignoring evidence.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 12, 2015
I will report this post of mine, so the moderator can see how otto cannot say anything in response to the issues, but continually has a deep need of some kind to attack those who showed us he is a hider, a sniper, hiding behind his pseudonyms, attacking those who outed him.

This thread regards the effects of drought. Let's stay on topic, no matter your psychological state, shall we?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Aug 12, 2015
I will report this post of mine, so the moderator can see how otto cannot say anything in response to the issues, but continually has a deep need of some kind to attack those who showed us he is a hider, a sniper, hiding behind his pseudonyms, attacking those who outed him.

This thread regards the effects of drought. Let's stay on topic, no matter your psychological state, shall we?
-And while youre at it, report yourself for breaking every one of the physorg guidelines. including
Cross posting is against physorg policy. Another rule you think youre exempt from?
-You are a lying, flooding psychopath who thinks that every topic is an excuse to talk about himself.

They can read
http://phys.org/n...age.html
http://techxplore...olf.html
http://phys.org/n...ion.html

-for a small sampling of your disregard for this site and fellow posters.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 12, 2015
The thread is severe droughts, but we have some goober here with a terrible fixation, and a terrible need to "get even" with me for letting him make a fool of himself.

Even more interesting, as he follows me around, he likes to give us definitions of psychopathy.

Will somebody get his message, and put him in an emotional care facility?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Aug 12, 2015
The thread is severe droughts, but we have some goober here with a terrible fixation, and a terrible need to "get even" with me for letting him make a fool of himself.

Even more interesting, as he follows me around, he likes to give us definitions of psychopathy.

Will somebody get his message, and put him in an emotional care facility?
And you will continue to be followed, and outed, so that the good posters on this site will know exactly who and what they are dealing with.

Do you understand?

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