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Impacts of millennium drought on butterfly faunal dynamics

Butterflies are flying colored wing insects that vary in color and pattern from individual to another individual. It has wings covered with overlapping rows of scales. Most of butterflies have developed mechanisms to   avoid predators making disguise coloration blending like leaf or bark of the tree. Some releases chemicals as a defense mechanism wherein butterfly evolved to have toxic chemicals. But recent finding due to extreme weather events and trend linked to ongoing anthropogenic climate change species shifts its dynamics. Droughts occur more often in larger spatial scale which has an effect on insects. Generally, drier and warmer climatic conditions have an impact either positive or negative to insect populations. The aim of this research is to address the knowledge gap using multi-decadal dataset of 163 butterfly species. All of this butterflies experienced millennium-scale drought.


Impacts of droughts on Butterflies

To know the faunal dynamics, investigation of phenology, species richness and diversity with its elevation gradient has been conducted. In which linear model used to understand differential sensitivity of butterflies to climate change at low and high elevation. A decade of dataset of 163 butterfly species across elevational gradient in Northern California has been considered. Results showed that a prolonged shift towards spring flight during drought years and change in phenology is evident across elevations. It also happened that the total flight window expanded at lower elevations while at higher elevation shifted and compressed. This leads the notion that fewer overall flight days at higher sites.


The millennium drought in California created across site with elevation-specific changes in flight windows and species richness. This resiliency reveals that lowest elevations are less detrimental than biotic-abiotic association at higher elevations. Most of the researchers hypothesized a mismatch between trophic levels as a result of climate change. But, results of butterflies from low elevation would suggest that at consumer trophic level need not always have negative impacts. Additionally, species at lowest elevations have access to agricultural lands though irrigation does not correlate the population dynamics during drought. Thus, there is a possibility that low elevation population buffered by irrigated crops or agricultural margin during drought.


Indeed, that at high elevation butterflies declined in number and become sensitive to dry years with warmer temperatures. Contrary to the theory that mountains offer microclimatic refugia and adapt species for climatic changes. It has been known that high latitude environments are warming faster with negative consequences to several species. But positive or have a neutral effect for other species. Consequently, this research suggests more thorough investigation about organismal responses to extreme weather. As well as on the extent wherein different habitat type may or may not buffer species populations against climate change.


Source: Prepared by Joan Tura from Springer BMC Climate Changes Responses

Volume 5:3 26 January 2018