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An early spring drives butterfly population declines
Date:3/15/2012

killing of caterpillars during early-season frosts. The combined effects of snow melt in the two consecutive years explained more than four-fifths of the observed variation in population growth rate. "It is very unusual for research to uncover such a simple mechanism that can explain almost all of the variation in growth rate of an insect population", said Dr. David Inouye, professor of biology at the University of Maryland and co-author of the study.

"One climate parameter can have multiple effects on an organism's population growth," Dr. Boggs stated. "This was not previously recognized for species such as butterflies that live for only one year. We already can predict that this coming summer will be a difficult one for the butterflies, because the very low snowpack in the mountains this winter makes it likely that there will be significant frost damage."

"Long-term studies such as ours are important to understanding the 'ecology of place' and the effects of weather and possible climate change on population numbers," commented Dr. Inouye. "Research of this nature is critical to assessing the broader effects of weather on an ever-changing earth, and field stations such as RMBL, by facilitating longer-term, longitudinal studies, are an invaluable asset in this regard."


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Contact: Justin Jackson
jjackson@burnsmc.com
212-213-0006
Burns McClellan
Source:Eurekalert

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