Navigation Links
Massachusetts butterflies move north as climate warms

PETERSHAM, Mass. (August 19, 2012)---The authors of a Harvard study published today in Nature Climate Change gathered their data from an unlikely sourcethe trip accounts of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club. Over the past 19 years, the amateur naturalist group has logged species counts on nearly 20,000 expeditions throughout Massachusetts. Their records fill a crucial gap in the scientific record.

Once analyzed, the data show a clear trend. According to Greg Breed, lead author on the study and a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Mass., "Over the past 19 years, a warming climate has been reshaping Massachusetts butterfly communities." Subtropical and warm-climate species such as the giant swallowtail and zabulon skippermany of which were rare or absent in Massachusetts as recently as the late 1980sshow the sharpest increases in abundance. At the same time, more than three quarters of northerly speciesspecies with a range centered north of Bostonare now declining in Massachusetts, many of them rapidly. Most impacted are the species that overwinter as eggs or small larvae: these overwintering stages may be much more sensitive to drought or lack of snow cover.

The study creates new questions for managing threatened species. "For most butterfly species, climate change seems to be a stronger change-agent than habitat loss. Protecting habitat remains a key management strategy, and that may help some butterfly species. However, for many others, habitat protection will not mitigate the impacts of warming," says Breed. He points to the frosted elfin, a species that receives formal habitat protection from the state. This southerly distributed butterfly is now one of the most rapidly increasing species in Massachusetts, with an estimated 1000% increase since 1992. Some of this increase may be due to habitat protections, Breed allows. But over the same period, atlantis and aphrodite fritillaries, historically common summer butterflies in Massachusetts, have declined by nearly 90%yet these northerly species remain unprotected.

The kind of information collected by the Mass. Butterfly Club is becoming increasingly valuable to scientists and land managers alike. Elizabeth Crone, senior ecologist at the Harvard Forest and another co-author on the study, notes, "Careful datasets from amateur naturalists play a valuable role in our understanding of species dynamics. Scientists constantly ask questions, but sometimes the data just isn't there to provide the answers, and we can't go back in time to collect it. This study would not have been possible without the dedication and knowledge of the data collectors on those 19,000 club trips."


Contact: Clarisse Hart
Harvard University

Related biology news :

1. Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers discover elusive gene that causes a form of blindness from birth
2. Rewarding work for butterflies
3. Monarch butterflies down again this year as decline continues, says Texas A&M expert
4. Study reveals how monarch butterflies recolonize northern breeding range
5. Commonly used herbicides seen as threat to endangered butterflies
6. Spider version of Bigfoot emerges from caves in the Pacific Northwest
7. Climate change effects, potential mitigation in Northeast forests subject of Forest Service Report
8. North American freshwater fishes race to extinction
9. Active forest management to reduce fire could help protect northern spotted owl
10. Hidden secrets in the worlds most northerly rainforests
11. NOAA plankton surveys, second longest in the North Atlantic, add to new global effort
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/16/2016)... , June 16, 2016 ... size is expected to reach USD 1.83 billion ... Grand View Research, Inc. Technological proliferation and increasing ... applications are expected to drive the market growth. ... , The development of advanced multimodal ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... innovation leader in attendance control systems is proud to announce the introduction of fingerprint ... sure the right employees are actually signing in, and to even control the opening ... ... ... Photo ...
(Date:6/7/2016)... , June 7, 2016  Syngrafii Inc. ... a business relationship that includes integrating Syngrafii,s patented ... branch project. This collaboration will result in greater ... the credit union, while maintaining existing document workflow ... ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... --  Ginkgo Bioworks , a leading organism design ... awarded as one of the World Economic Forum,s ... innovative companies. Ginkgo Bioworks is engineering biology to ... in the nutrition, health and consumer goods sectors. ... including Fortune 500 companies to design microbes for ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... WA (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... announces the release of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention ... recruitment and retention in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital ... Sports Association to serve as their official health ... Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, athletic training ... association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... Sports Association and to bring Houston Methodist quality ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... the launch of the Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., ... the future of how hardware projects are designed, built and brought to market. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: