Impacts of climate change on national biodiversity population trends

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Martay, B., Dennis, E. B., Brereton, T. M., Bell, J. R., Crick, H. Q. P., Morecroft, M. D., Roy, D. B. and Pearce-Higgins, J. W. 2017. Impacts of climate change on national biodiversity population trends. Ecography. 40 (10), p. 1139–1151.

AuthorsMartay, B., Dennis, E. B., Brereton, T. M., Bell, J. R., Crick, H. Q. P., Morecroft, M. D., Roy, D. B. and Pearce-Higgins, J. W.

Lepidoptera are sensitive to climate change, with documented impacts on their phenology, distribution and communities. However, there remains considerable uncertainty over which species are most vulnerable, and which have been most affected so far. To address this, we analyse 35-year UK or English population trends of 55 butterfly and 265 moth species to model the impacts of variation in temperature and precipitation upon population growth rates. We identify the weather variables and periods that species are most sensitive to, the long-term impacts of climate change, and the characteristics of species which show the greatest responses. Positive impacts of summer temperature on both butterflies and moths were partly offset by negative impacts of temperature in other seasons, particularly winter. Precipitation tended to have negative impacts on population growth rates, particularly for moths. Annual population fluctuations were strongly driven by inter-annual variation in weather conditions. Over 40% of a significant decline in mean moth abundance from the 1990s to 2000s was consistent with a weather-driven decline predicted by our models, which also explained up to 19% of the decadal variation in abundance between species. Species overwintering as larvae and multivoltine species were most sensitive to the effects of weather, whilst southerly-distributed species, species associated with woodland and unimproved grassland habitats, and pest species, showed the most positive long-term responses to climate change. Combined, these results show how climate change is already having significant impacts on the abundance of particular butterfly and moth species, with likely future consequences for ecosystem function and services.

KeywordsButterfly; Moth; UK; Population trend; Traits; Weather
Year of Publication2017
Journal citation40 (10), p. 1139–1151
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as green open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeThe Rothamsted Insect Survey - National Capability [2017-2022]
Publisher's version
Copyright license
Publisher copyright
Accepted author manuscript
Copyright license
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online29 Sep 2017
Publication process dates
Accepted13 Sep 2017
Copyright licensePublisher copyright

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