Research suggests that global warming could push drought-sensitive UK butterflies into extinction by 2050.
Six species of butterflies in Britain may face local extinction by 2050 because of climate change, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.
Although many people believe that butterflies are creatures that love the warmth, periods of extremely hot and dry weather can significantly reduce populations. In fact, scientists found that even the lowest expected levels of warming could decimate populations.
“What was surprising to me was that even in the most benign scenario, the drought effects are quite severe,” said Tom Oliver, the lead author of the new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, and an ecologist at the Center for Ecology and Hydrology.
The study relies on data from 129 sites at which 28 butterfly species are tracked in the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, along with historical weather data and climate model predictions from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project.
The species that researchers identified as vulnerable are the ringlet, the speckled wood, the large skipper, the large white, the small white and the green-veined white butterfly. All are common now.
By 2050, the species will not face total extinction. But populations in dry areas, particularly in southeast England, may disappear, Dr. Oliver said.
To counter the effects of climate change, butterflies need havens where they can thrive.