The influence of life history traits on the phenological response of British butterflies to climate variability since the late-19th century

Brooks, Stephen J.; Self, Angela; Powney, Gary D.; Pearse, William D.; Penn, Malcolm; Paterson, Gordon L.J.. 2017 The influence of life history traits on the phenological response of British butterflies to climate variability since the late-19th century. Ecography, 40 (10). 1152-1165.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
N514619PP.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (804kB) | Preview


Many species of plants and animals have advanced their phenology in response to climate warming in recent decades. Most of the evidence available for these shifts is based on data from the last few decades, a period coinciding with rapid climate warming. Baseline data is required to put these recent phenological changes in a long-term context. We analysed the phenological response of 51 resident British butterfly species using data from 83 500 specimens in the collections of the Natural History Museum, London, covering the period 1880–1970. Our analysis shows that only three species significantly advanced their phenology between 1880 and 1970, probably reflecting the relatively small increase in spring temperature over this period. However, the phenology of all but one of the species we analysed showed phenological sensitivity to inter-annual climate variability and a significant advancement in phenology in years in which spring or summer temperatures were warm and dry. The phenologies of butterfly species were more sensitive to weather if the butterfly species was early flying, southerly distributed, and a generalist in terms of larval diet. This observation is consistent with the hypothesis that species with greater niche breadth may be more phenologically sensitive than species with important niche constraints. Comparison of our results with post-1976 data from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme show that species flying early in the year had a greater rate of phenological advancement prior to the mid-1970s. Additionally, prior to the mid-1970s, phenology was influenced by temperatures in March or April, whereas since 1976, February temperature had a stronger influence on the phenology. These results suggest that early flying species may be approaching the limits of phenological advancement in response to recent climate warming.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pywell
ISSN: 0906-7590
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 27 Sep 2016 13:58 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...