Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Expanding forests darken the outlook for butterflies


Changing environmental conditions in the Canadian Rockies are stifling the mating choices of butterflies in the region, say University of Alberta researchers.

Smaller and less abundant alpine meadows--largely the result of human activities--are diminishing the alpine butterfly gene pool, creating a pattern that could lead to the butterflies being less able to survive, said Dr. Jens Roland, a biological scientist at the University of Alberta and an author of a paper on the subject that has been published recently in Molecular Ecology.

Working with colleagues in the U of A Department of Biological Sciences, Roland and doctoral student Nusha Keyghobadi used samples of butterfly dispersal and genetic variability taken from the Kananaskis region in Alberta to show a correlation between less genetic diversity and smaller meadows.

According to Roland, the altitude of the tree line in the Canadian Rockies is rising--likely due to global warming--and, outside of national parks, forest fires are usually suppressed. These factors are combining to create larger forests and smaller alpine meadows. This is bad news for butterflies in the Rockies, such as the Parnasissus, which Roland studies, because they require two things that they can easily find in meadows: sunlight and stone crop.

Butterflies need sunlight to elevate their body temperatures in order to fly, and forests are generally too shady for them to travel through with quickness and ease. Parnasissus also need stone crop, a plant that grows in meadows and is the only suitable host for alpine butterfly larvae.

Therefore, alpine butterflies do not generally travel beyond the meadows they are born in, and the shrinking meadows could lead to inbreeding and the decreased diversity in the gene pool, Roland said.

"In general, inbreeding leads a species to be more vulnerable to a variety of mortality factors that lower survival rates," Roland explained. "This has been demonstrated for other species of butterflies."

Only a few species of butterflies are threatened in the Canadian Rockies, but many more are threatened in Europe, where the problem of shrinking alpine meadows is older and more acute. Roland believes the results of his study can inform conservation biologists in Europe to help them save their butterflies.

As for protecting the butterflies in the Canadian Rockies, Roland would like to see more prescribed burning of forests to increase the number and size of alpine meadows. However, unlike the park areas, the unprotected land areas are often used for commercial purposes and are therefore less likely to be allowed to burn.

"They do prescribed burning in the national parks for general maintenance, but they also do it to increase the meadow areas, which animals such as sheep and elk like to inhabit. The offshoot is that it also helps smaller animals, such as the butterflies," Roland said.

Ryan Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>