Despite rising temperatures distribution of some warmth-loving butterflies is shrinking in the UK

It is often said that there are winners and losers of climate change and warmth-loving species are expected to appear on the winner side. A new study was published in Global Change Biology this week that found it otherwise. The study shows that despite of climate warming 27 thermophilous butterfly species are likely to occupy smaller range of habitats.

The researchers looked at data from 77 UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme sites collected over 30 years (1977-2007). They expected to show an increase in the distributions of the species due to climate warming through that period. Opposing to these expectations, they found that 74% of those butterfly species showed habitat contractions in the long term.

Based on their results they concluded that declines in the breadth of butterfly habitat was most probably caused by habitat degradation which seems to be able to overrule effects of climate change. Professor Chris Thomas, a co-author of the paper from the University of York, highlighted: “The fact that most butterfly species have shown habitat contractions over the past 30 years suggests that the negative effects of other drivers, such as habitat degradation, may have outweighed any benefits of climate warming for these warmth-loving species.”

Oliver, T.H., Thomas, C.D., Hill, J.K., Brereton, T. and Roy, D.B. (2012) Habitat associations of thermophilous butterflies are reduced despite climatic warming. Global Change Biology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02737.x