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British Lepidoptera Responses to Global Warming
Dennis, R.L.H. and Sparks, T.H. 2007. Climate signals are reflected in an 89 year series of British Lepidoptera records. European Journal of Entomology 104: 763-767.

What was done
The authors analyzed data pertaining to the general abundance of Lepidoptera in Britain over the 89-year period 1864-1952, based on information assembled by Beirne (1955) via his examination of "several thousand papers in entomological journals describing annual abundances of moths and butterflies."

What was learned
Dennis and Sparks report that "abundances of British Lepidoptera were significantly positively correlated with Central England temperatures in the current year for each month from May to September and November," and that "increased overall abundance in Lepidoptera coincided significantly with increased numbers of migrants," which latter data were derived from the work of Williams (1965). In addition, they report that Pollard (1988) subsequently found much the same thing for 31 butterfly species over the period 1976-1986, and that Roy et al. (2001) extended the latter investigation to 1997, finding "strong associations between weather and population fluctuations and trends in 28 of [the] 31 species which confirmed Pollard's (1988) findings," all of which observations indicate that the warming-driven increase in Lepidopteran species and numbers in Britain has been an ongoing phenomenon ever since the end of the Little Ice Age.

What it means
As a host of researchers have found in many other studies of plant and animal responses to global warming, rising temperatures typically lead to significant species range expansions; and the resulting overlapping of these increasingly larger ranges tends to increase regional ecosystem biodiversity and protect against the danger of species extinction.

Beirne, B.P. 1955. Natural fluctuations in abundance of British Lepidoptera. Entomologist's Gazette 6: 21-52.

Pollard, E. 1988. Temperature, rainfall and butterfly numbers. Journal of Applied Ecology 25: 819-828.

Roy, D.B., Rothery, P., Moss, D., Pollard, E. and Thomas, J.A. 2001. Butterfly numbers and weather: predicting historical trends in abundance and the future effects of climate change. Journal of Animal Ecology 70: 201-217.

Williams, C.B. 1965. Insect Migration. Collins, London, UK, 237 pp.

Reviewed 3 September 2008