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British Butterflies and Crickets Benefit from Regional Warming
Volume 4, Number 23b: 6 June 2001

Concomitant with a modest regional warming of the British Isles over the past two decades, Thomas et al. (2001) have documented an unusually rapid expansion of the ranges of two butterfly species -- the silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) and the brown argus butterfly (Aricia agestis) -- as well as two cricket species, the long-winged cone-head (Conocephalus discolor) and Roesel's bush cricket (Metrioptera roeselii).  In fact, the authors write that the warming-induced "increased habitat breadth and dispersal tendencies have resulted in about 3- to 15-fold increases in expansion rates."

In commenting on the findings, Pimm (2001) truly states the obvious when he says that the geographical ranges of these insects are "expanding faster than expected" and that the synergies involved in the many intricacies of the range expansion processes are also "unexpected."  But does he suggest that these population-enhancing and species-richness-increasing phenomena might possibly bode well for earth's biosphere?  Of course not.  That would be politically incorrect.  Rather, he pessimistically writes in the lead-in to his commentary that "other species may not be quite so lucky," and he concludes his treatise equally pessimistically by stating that "the broad lesson from Thomas and colleagues' results should not be awe at how quickly a few species benefit from global change, but concern with how rapidly many may be harmed by it."

Isn't it amazing how good news, even news so good that we stand in "awe" of it, brings forth even further predictions of bad news from those enamored of the CO2-induced global warming hypothesis?  And isn't it amazing that the benefits of the regional warming are said to be restricted to but "a few species," when in reality similar warming-induced range expansions have been documented by Parmesan et al. (1999) for close to three dozen European butterfly species?  And by Thomas and Lennon (1999) for several species of British birds?

Then again, maybe it's not surprising, when science becomes politicized!

Dr. Craig D. Idso
Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President

Parmesan, C., Ryrholm, N., Stefanescu, C., Hill, J.K., Thomas, C.D., Descimon, H., Huntley, B., Kaila, L., Kullberg, J., Tammaru, T., Tennent, W.J., Thomas, J.A. and Warren, M.  1999.  Poleward shifts in geographical ranges of butterfly species associated with regional warming.  Nature 399: 579-583.

Pimm, S.L.  2001.  Entrepreneurial insects.  Nature 411: 531-532.

Thomas, C.D., Bodsworth, E.J., Wilson, R.J., Simmons, A.D., Davies, Z.G., Musche, M. and Conradt, L.  2001.  Ecological and evolutionary processes at expanding range margins.  Nature 411: 577-581.

Thomas, C.D. and Lennon, J.J.  1999.  Birds extend their ranges northwards.  Nature 399: 213.