The race is not to the swift: long-term data reveal pervasive declines in California's low-elevation butterfly fauna.
ABSTRACT Understanding the ecology of extinction is one of the primary challenges facing ecologists in the 21st century. Much of our current understanding of extinction, particularly for invertebrates, comes from studies with large geographic coverage but less temporal resolution, such as comparisons between historical collection records and contemporary surveys for geographic regions or political entities. We present a complementary approach involving a data set that is geographically restricted but temporally intensive: we focus on three sites in the Central Valley of California, and utilize 35 years of biweekly (every two weeks) surveys at our most long-sampled site. Previous analyses of these data revealed declines in richness over recent decades. Here, we take a more detailed approach to investigate the mode of decline for this fauna. We ask if all species are in decline, or only a subset. We also investigate traits commonly found to be predictors of extinction risk in other studies, such as body size, diet breadth, habitat association, and geographic range. We find that population declines are ubiquitous: the majority of species at our three focal sites (but not at a nearby site at higher elevation) are characterized by reductions in the fraction of days that they are observed per year. These declines are not readily predicted by ecological traits, with the possible exception of ruderal/non-ruderal status. Ruderal species, in slightly less precipitous decline than non-ruderal taxa, are more dispersive and more likely to be associated with disturbed habitats and exotic hosts. We conclude that population declines and extirpation, particularly in regions severely and recently impacted by anthropogenic alteration, might not be as predictable as has been suggested by other studies on the ecology of extinction.
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ABSTRACT: Changes in climate are influencing the distribution and abundance of the world's biota, with significant consequences for biological diversity and ecosystem processes. Recent work has raised concern that populations of moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) may be particularly susceptible to population declines under environmental change. Moreover, effects of climate change may be especially pronounced in high latitude ecosystems. Here, we examine population dynamics in an assemblage of subarctic forest moths in Finnish Lapland to assess current trajectories of population change. Moth counts were made continuously over a period of 32 years using light traps. From 456 species recorded, 80 were sufficiently abundant for detailed analyses of their population dynamics. Climate records indicated rapid increases in temperature and winter precipitation at our study site during the sampling period. However, 90% of moth populations were stable (57%) or increasing (33%) over the same period of study. Nonetheless, current population trends do not appear to reflect positive responses to climate change. Rather, time series models illustrated that the per capita rates of change of moth species were more frequently associated negatively than positively with climate change variables, even as their populations were increasing. For example, the per capita rates of change of 35% of microlepidoptera were associated negatively with climate change variables. Moth life history traits were not generally strong predictors of current population change or associations with climate change variables. However, 60% of moth species that fed as larvae on resources other than living vascular plants (e.g. litter, lichen, mosses) were associated negatively with climate change variables in time series models, suggesting that such species may be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Overall, populations of subarctic forest moths in Finland are performing better than expected, and their populations appear buffered at present from potential deleterious effects of climate change by other ecological forces. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.Global Change Biology 01/2014; · 8.22 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Butterfly populations are naturally patchy and undergo extinctions and recolonizations. Analyses based on more than 2 decades of data on California's Central Valley butterfly fauna show a net loss in species richness through time. We analyzed 22 years of phenological and faunistic data for butterflies to investigate patterns of species richness over time. We then used 18-22 years of data on changes in regional land use and 37 years of seasonal climate data to develop an explanatory model. The model related the effects of changes in land-use patterns, from working landscapes (farm and ranchland) to urban and suburban landscapes, and of a changing climate on butterfly species richness. Additionally, we investigated local trends in land use and climate. A decline in the area of farmland and ranchland, an increase in minimum temperatures during the summer and maximum temperatures in the fall negatively affected net species richness, whereas increased minimum temperatures in the spring and greater precipitation in the previous summer positively affected species richness. According to the model, there was a threshold between 30% and 40% working-landscape area below which further loss of working-landscape area had a proportionally greater effect on butterfly richness. Some of the isolated effects of a warming climate acted in opposition to affect butterfly richness. Three of the 4 climate variables that most affected richness showed systematic trends (spring and summer mean minimum and fall mean maximum temperatures). Higher spring minimum temperatures were associated with greater species richness, whereas higher summer temperatures in the previous year and lower rainfall were linked to lower richness. Patterns of land use contributed to declines in species richness (although the pattern was not linear), but the net effect of a changing climate on butterfly richness was more difficult to discern. Contribución de la Expansión Urbana y un Clima Cambiante a la Declinación de la Fauna de Mariposas.Conservation Biology 02/2014; · 4.36 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Understanding recent biogeographic responses to climate change is fundamental for improving our predictions of likely future responses and guiding conservation planning at both local and global scales. Studies of observed biogeographic responses to 20th century climate change have principally examined effects related to ubiquitous increases in temperature - collectively termed a warming fingerprint. Although the importance of changes in other aspects of climate - particularly precipitation and water availability - is widely acknowledged from a theoretical standpoint and supported by paleontological evidence, we lack a practical understanding of how these changes interact with temperature to drive biogeographic responses. Further complicating matters, differences in life history and ecological attributes may lead species to respond differently to the same changes in climate. Here, we examine whether recent biogeographic patterns across California are consistent with a warming fingerprint. We describe how various components of climate have changed regionally in California during the 20th century and review empirical evidence of biogeographic responses to these changes, particularly elevational range shifts. Many responses to climate change do not appear to be consistent with a warming fingerprint, with downslope shifts in elevation being as common as upslope shifts across a number of taxa and many demographic and community responses being inconsistent with upslope shifts. We identify a number of potential direct and indirect mechanisms for these responses, including the influence of aspects of climate change other than temperature (e.g., the shifting seasonal balance of energy and water availability), differences in each taxon's sensitivity to climate change, trophic interactions, and land-use change. Finally, we highlight the need to move beyond a warming fingerprint in studies of biogeographic responses by considering a more multifaceted view of climate, emphasizing local-scale effects, and including a priori knowledge of relevant natural history for the taxa and regions under study.Global Change Biology 06/2014; · 8.22 Impact Factor