Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

These Six Butterflies Could Disappear Forever

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

These Six Butterflies Could Disappear Forever

Article excerpt

The situation is dire for drought-sensitive butterflies in Britain, but with a little help from humans, it may not yet be too late.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions, as well as better management of landscapes - in particular restoring connections between habitats that have been fragmented by human activities - could make a big difference in preventing butterfly extinctions, which otherwise could occur in Britain as early as 2050, a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change has found.

"The results are worrying. Until I started this research, I hadn't quite realised the magnitude and potential impacts from climate change," Tom Oliver, an ecological modeler at Britain's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the study's lead author, said in a statement. "To limit these losses, both habitat restoration and reducing CO2 emissions have a role. In fact, a combination of both is necessary.

"The study looked at butterflies but the conclusions are potentially valid for other species such as birds, beetles, moths and dragonflies," he added.

Three-quarters of British butterflies are in decline today, according to the British nonprofit Butterfly Conservation. More than their aesthetic value, butterflies and moths are indicators of a wide variety of other invertebrates present in an ecosystem and are an important element of both pollination and the food chain.

In addition, "We could lose an astonishing fraction of biodiversity," Jessica Hellmann, a population ecologist at the University of Notre Dame who was not part of the study, told The Verge. "People should care about this information because [the study] uses butterflies as a window to how climate change will affect creatures - many of which we take for granted."

Oliver and his team analyzed data from 129 sites at which 28 butterfly species are tracked via the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, which has monitored changes in butterfly numbers throughout the United Kingdom since 1976, as well as historical weather data. …

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