Butterflies Headed For Extinction Due To Climate Change

Posted: Aug 11 2015, 5:52am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Butterflies Headed for Extinction due to Climate Change
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Six species of butterflies in the UK happen to be headed for extinction due to climate change.

Changes in the weather have led to climatic extremes of heat and cold. The earth’s biosphere is being negatively affected by this rapid denudation of Nature. Several populations of animals and plants have suffered. This is a consequence of global warming.

Climate change has become chronic in its severity. The species may be unable to withstand the shock to the system. The final outcome of a struggle for survival may be extinction, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change on Monday.

The study was led by Dr Tom Oliver from the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) in collaboration with colleagues from CEH, the charity Butterfly Conservation, Natural England and the University of Exeter.

Several butterflies in the UK are about to meet a similar fate thanks to climate change. This is a response to severe droughts. The butterfly populations of Great Britain have started to suffer tragic consequences.

Their habitat is getting destroyed. With the passage of time these butterflies are undergoing increased fragmentation. The six species that were studied could vanish forever from the planet by 2050. This would be a huge loss of biodiversity.

Yet the extinction could get forestalled by human intervention. Human activity can be both destructive as well as constructive. It works both ways. So the butterfly populations may get salvaged from the pitfalls of climate change.

Lead author Dr Tom Oliver from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, "The results are worrying. Until I started this research, I hadn't quite realised the magnitude and potential impacts from climate change. For drought-sensitive butterflies, and potentially other taxa, widespread population extinctions are expected by 2050. To limit these loses, both habitat restoration and reducing CO2 emissions have a role. In fact, a combination of both is necessary."

The good change occurs via reducing greenhouse gas emissions and looking after landscapes. This is the only way these butterflies could get stopped from entering oblivion. The task is formidable but not impossible. The efforts are already underway. And the butterflies might make it to 2100 instead thanks to interventions by environmentalists.

After that date it is anyone’s lucky guess. Dr Tom Oliver is the head of the project. His mission it to save the butterflies as well as other drought-sensitive species. He said that he was worried about the trend of pollution that was rampant across the planet. It has a negative impact on species. If steps were not taken now, we might lose a large number of species by the middle of the 21st century.

Dr Oliver adds, "We consider the average response across Great Britain. Losses are likely to be more severe in drier areas with more intensive land use, whilst wetter areas with less fragmented habitat will provide refugia. We assume that butterflies won't have time to evolve to become more drought-tolerant, because their populations are already small, and evolution would need to be very rapid. The study looked at butterflies but the conclusions are potentially valid for other species such as birds, beetles, moths and dragonflies."

There were a total of six species of butterflies that were on the endangered list. They included: the ringlet, speckled wood, large skipper, large white, small white and green-veined white. Butterflies got chosen for this study. That was because they are ideal subjects of inquiry.

Their population variations over the years were recorded by man. Over 129 sites for a total of 28 species were the object of investigation. The hardiness of the species could get increased thanks to intervention by biologists. Yet the strategy ought to be the forestalling of climate change.

Co-author Mike Morecroft from Natural England said, "There's good news and bad news here. The good news is that we can increase the resilience of species to climate change by improving our natural environment, particularly increasing areas of habitat and we are working hard at this. However, this approach will only work if climate change is limited by effective controls on greenhouse gas emissions."

Co-author Tom Brereton from Butterfly Conservation said, "The study highlights the pressing need to investigate local conservation measures that may help drought-sensitive butterflies to adapt and persist in our changing countryside."

Co-author Dr Chris Huntingford also from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, "Many climate projections indicate rapid increases in the frequency of severe drought events under all scenarios, but especially under the steepest rise in CO2 emissions. There is uncertainty in these projections, which we captured by considering outputs from seventeen different climate models. The overall results suggest that drought-sensitive butterflies are only likely to avoid widespread extinctions if CO2 emission levels are reduced below business-as-usual and, furthermore, this in combination with habitat restoration measures"

Co-author Dr Christel Prudhomme from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, 'This study highlights the benefits of much tighter discussion between researchers from physical and environmental science disciplines- between those who develop simulations of expected levels of future climate change, and those who can translate those projections into local impacts and potential adaptation strategies'

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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