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Accounting for habitat when considering climate: has the niche of the Adonis blue butterfly changed in the UK?

O'Connor, Rory S.; Hails, Rosemary S.; Thomas, Jeremy A.. 2014 Accounting for habitat when considering climate: has the niche of the Adonis blue butterfly changed in the UK? Oecologia, 174 (4). 1463-1472. 10.1007/s00442-013-2850-1

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Abstract/Summary

The dramatic recovery of three species of grassland specialist butterfly threatened with extinction at their high latitude range limits in the 1980s has been attributed to two factors: increased grazing on calcareous grassland sites and warmer air temperatures. Both result in the warming of soil surface temperatures, favourable to the larvae of these species. We address the influence of both of these factors on the habitat usage of the butterfly Polyommatus bellargus, undergoing recovery at its northern range edge. We test the hypothesis that the larval niche of P. bellargus has become less constrained in the past three decades, whilst controlling for changes in habitat structure. Once habitat change has been accounted for we find no evidence for a broadening of the larval niche of P. bellargus. Further, we show that coincident with the recovery of P. bellargus there have been drastic reductions in average turf height across UK chalk grasslands, but changes in air temperature have been highly variable. We conclude that changes to soil surface temperatures caused by reducing turf heights will have been a more consistent influence than air temperature increases, and so habitat improvements through increased grazing will have been the major driver of recovery in P. bellargus. We consider the need to account for changes in habitat when exploring the impacts of recent climate change on local habitats in thermophilous species, and emphasise the continued importance of habitat management to support such species under variable local climates.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1007/s00442-013-2850-1
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 3 - Managing Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in a Changing Environment
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 1 - Observations, Patterns, and Predictions for Biodiversity
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity
CEH Sections: Directors, SPCs
Reynard
ISSN: 0029-8549
Additional Keywords: larval niche, climate warming, habitat management, habitat quality, thermophilous
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 10 Jan 2014 11:56 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/503702

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