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Biology Articles » Bioclimatology » Climate warming and habitat loss threaten British Butterfly survival

Climate warming and habitat loss threaten British Butterfly survival

Because butterflies are cold blooded, their growth and development are closely dependent on the weather and climate. When climates change insects can either shift breeding distributions to track it, stay put and adapt, or die out. Since the 1970s, climate warming in Britain has seen almost 20% of butterflies spread their ranges northwards, tracking temperature isotherms.

Writing in the June issue of Biologist, Jane Hill and Richard Fox (from the University of York and Butterfly Conservation, Wareham) report that an important, additional and detrimental influence on butterfly survival is habitat loss. The removal of natural habitats has caused significant declines in specialist British butterflies, particularly those with sedentary habits. Hill and Fox, using climate modelling, predict that 'the dual forces of habitat loss and climate warming are likely to cause ongoing declines of [habitat] specialist [butterflies] unless major habitat restoration and conservation programmes are initiated'. Failure to do so could leave the butterfly community dominated by a few mobile habitat generalists and have severe consequences for future British butterfly survival and biodiversity.

Ends

Institute of Biology. June 2003.


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