ALARMing News for Butterflies

A new study mapping the distribution of European butterfiles has revealed that, even under the best-case scenario, climate change will mean that much of the land occupied by many different butterfly species will become too warm for their survival.

The researchers from the Mapping European Butterflies project used scenarios developed within the ALARM project (Assessing LArge-scale environmental Risks for biodiversity using tested Methods), funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme:

1. SEDG – ‘Sustainable European Development Goal’
2. BAMBU – ‘Business as Might Be Usual’
3. GRAS – ‘Growth Applied Strategy’ – driven by economic imperatives such as free-trade and globalisation.

Under the GRAS strategy, the researchers’ model predicted that the average European temperature would increase by 4.1C by 2080, and over 95% of the land currently occupied by 70 different butterflies would become too warm for them to survive. Even under the SEDG scenario, Europe would warm by, on average, 2.4C, leaving 50% of the area occupied by 147 butterfly species uninhabitable for them; 9 species would be unable to occupy 95% of their current range.

To mitigate such effects on butterflies, important indicators of impacts on biodiversity, policy should aim to maintain large populations in diverse habitats, creating a permeable landscape to allow species to move as the climate changes. They propose better resourced and more targetted agri-environment schemes, and sustainable management of Natura 2000 sites, as possible tools.