Money Matters - Simplified

Changing climatic conditions take butterfly species elsewhere-Harvard study

Citizen scientist and the butterfly enthusiasts of Massachusetts have recorded documents that state global warming or worldwide increase in temperatures is responsible for reshaping butterfly groups in Northeast.

The data collection

The Massachussetts Butterfly club has been keeping a track of various species of butterflies that they have noticed in over 20,000 trekking endeavors. The information made available by Greeg Breed, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Mass. with amateur naturalist groups have greatly helped the gaps left in the recorded scientific data. “Over the past 19 years, a warming climate has been reshaping Massachusetts butterfly communities,” confirmed Breed.

The species count

The giant swallow tail and the Zabulon skipper are species that are normally found in the warm climates and subtropical regions. They have to a great extent increased in numbers in the Massachussetts area. They were not noticed in the area till as recent as 1980’s. Three quarter of the butterfly species found in the North of Boston are rapidly reducing in number from Massachussettes.

“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,” stated Breed.

The butterfly communities are sensitive to climatic upheavals and they are extending north as the climate is warming up states the research. Breed comments “Most impacted are the species that overwinter as eggs or small larvae, indicating that these overwintering stages may be much more sensitive to drought or lack of snow cover.”

“Breed 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 1,000 percent increase since 1992.”

The breed allows an increase in the number may be because of the protection rendered by the habitat. Some historically common species of butterflies found in Massachusettes in summer, like the atlantis and aphrodite fritillaries have shown a decline of almost 90%. The Northerly species face a number of eventualities and are not sheltered.The concerning thought is how to provide coverage for the endangered species.

It is of prime importance to understand how different butterfly species spread across different geographical areas due to the drastic changes in temperature. This pins the temperature changes as the major fitness determinant in the flight of the butterflies to different areas and protection of the habitat becomes a strong management strategy.