The combined heat from climate change and urbanization is likely to reduce the number of eastern swallowtails and other native butterflies in Ohio and promote the spread of invasive relatives, a new study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows.
Among 20 species monitored by the Ohio Lepidopterists society, eight showed significant delays in important early lifecycle events when the two factors were combineda surprising response that may render the eight unfit for parts of the state where they now thrive.
Butterflies serve as important indicator species for how the broader ecosystem might be impacted, the researchers say. They are pursuing further studies to learn whether the negative impacts on multiple species add up to cause disruptions to the environment.
Other studies have shown that butterflies respond to higher temperatures due either to climate change or turning farmland and forests into asphalt and concrete by first appearingand reaching peak numbersearlier in the year.
"But when you combine the effects, it sort of throws a wrench in how you predict species' responses," said Sarah Diamond, an assistant professor of biology at Case Western Reserve and lead author of the study, now online in the journal Ecology at http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/13-1848.1.
The findings, the researchers say, may be useful to predict effects of environmental changes over the next decades and develop strategies to respond, and can likely be applied worldwide
Diamond worked with Heather Cayton, Tyson Wepprich, Clinton Jenkins, Rob Dunn and Nick Haddad of the department of biological sciences at North Carolina State University; and Leslie Ries, of the biology department at the University of Maryland.
Researchers analyzed 13 years of butterfly monitoring records by lep
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Case Western Reserve University