New research led by ecologists at the University of York shows that certain species of moths and butterflies are becoming more common, and others rarer, as species differ in how they respond to climate change. Collaborating with the Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the charity Butterfly Conservation, the University of Reading, and Rothamsted Research, scientists analyzed how the abundance and distribution of 155 species of British butterflies and moths have changed since the 1970s. Using data collected by thousands of volunteers through “citizen science” schemes, responses to recent climate change were seen to vary greatly from species to species. Published in an open-access article in the October 2, 2015 issue of Science Advances, this research shows that variation among species can be attributed to differing sensitivity to climate change, and also because species vary in how much the climate has changed for them (their “exposure”). The article is titled “Individualistic Sensitivities and Exposure to Climate Change Explain Variation in Species’ Distribution and Abundance Changes.” Sensitivity is a measure of how much species' numbers change as a result of year-to-year changes in the weather - each species is sensitive to different aspects of the climate, such as winter temperature or summer rainfall. Variation in how much the climate they are sensitive to has changed for them - their “exposure” - is also a contributing factor in their varied responses. Results show that species such as the treble brown spot moth (Idaea trigeminata) and the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria)(image) which are sensitive to climate, and for which the climate has improved the most, have experienced the greatest increases in their distribution size and abundance.
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