The climate in Britain has warmed over the last four decades, and many species, including butterflies, have shifted their distributions northwards. The extent of distribution changes has varied greatly among species, however, with some showing rapid expansion and others showing none at all. But this variation can be explained by taking into account the abundance trends of species.
The study by researchers in Department of Biology at York, Butterfly Conservation and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Centre for Ecology and Hydrology showed that butterflies were able to expand their distributions only if they had stable (or increasing) abundance trends. It is published by Nature Climate Change.
For those species with stable or increasing population trends that have been expanding their distributions, the amount of suitable habitat available in the landscape is important. The more habitat that is available, the faster a species can expand its distribution area.
Using data on butterfly distributions and abundances, collected by members of the public since the 1970s through 'citizen science' schemes, Louise Mair, a PhD student in Biology at York, and her colleagues examined factors limiting butterfly range expansion. These data reveal that species that were previously restricted to southern England are colonising northern England and Scotland. Butterflies have extended their distributions in this way because warmer climates have made northern regions increasingly more hospitable for these temperature-constrained insects.
The study concludes that conservation management must consider existing populations and ensure that species abundances are stable or increasing in order for them to be able to respond to climate change. Increasing the amount of natural habitat in the landscape is an important conservation goal, which should increase the rate of distribution expansion for species with stable or increasing populations. However, habitat creation will not be effective for promoting range expansion by species whose populations are declining.
Population trends can be affected by many things, including local environment conditions, and in recent decades most British butterflies have undergone population declines. More effort is needed to boost abundances within species' current ranges in order to protect wildlife as the climate and landscape changes.
Louise Mair says: "My previous research revealed huge variation among butterflies in relation to their range expansion rates. It's now clear from our new research that much of this variation can be accounted for once species' population trends are known."
Professor Jane Hill at York says: "Increasing habitat availability in the landscape has been suggested as a way to help species respond to climate change, but our research shows this will only be effective for species whose abundances are stable or increasing."
Dr Richard Fox at Butterfly Conservation says: "We are grateful to the thousands of volunteer recorders who have collected these butterfly data over the past years. Their efforts and the information they've gathered are proving crucial to our understanding of the impacts of climate change on British butterflies. These latest research findings have important implications for our work to conserve threatened butterflies."
Dr Marc Botham, at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, says: "Our research highlights the importance of the long-running UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme for developing effective conservation measures for British butterflies."
Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology at York, adds: "Conservation management to increase species' abundances within their ranges is a vital step in the process of helping species respond to climate changes."
David Garner | EurekAlert!
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy