Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming

Michael Ray Kearney, Natalie Briscoe, David John Karoly, Warren Porter, Melanie Beth Norgate, Paul Sunnucks

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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 0.168 degrees 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674 - 677
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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