Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming

Michael R. Kearney, Natalie J. Briscoe, David J. Karoly, Warren P. Porter, Melanie Norgate, Paul Sunnucks

Abstract

There is strong correlative evidence that human-induced climate warming is contributing to changes in the timing of natural events. Firm attribution, however, requires cause-and-effect links between observed climate change and altered phenology, together with statistical confidence that observed regional climate change is anthropogenic. We provide evidence for phenological shifts in the butterfly Heteronympha merope in response to regional warming in the southeast Australian city of Melbourne. The mean emergence date for H. merope has shifted −1.5 days per decade over a 65-year period with a concurrent increase in local air temperatures of approximately 0.16°C per decade. We used a physiologically based model of climatic influences on development, together with statistical analyses of climate data and global climate model projections, to attribute the response of H. merope to anthropogenic warming. Such mechanistic analyses of phenological responses to climate improve our ability to forecast future climate change impacts on biodiversity.

Footnotes

    View Full Text