Climate change and prolonged droughts may cause six species of local butterflies in the United Kingdom to go extinct by 2050, a recent report suggests. Unfortunately, other species may share a similar fate, including moths, beetles, and small birds.
The research team suggests that butterflies can be saved if local authorities manage to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore the creatures’ natural habitats and access points that were obstructed by human activities. Both solutions should be taken into consideration, researchers added.
The study was published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.
In the U.K., nearly 75 percent of butterfly populations face a significant decline. But the tiny animals are not important just for their looks and summer memories we may associate them with. They are hard-working pollinators and an important part of the ecosystem. If pollinator numbers decrease, crops are affected and so is our food chain.
“We could lose an astonishing fraction of biodiversity,”
noted Dr. Jessica Hellmann, an ecology expert at the University of Notre Dame who was not involved in the research.
Dr. Hellmann also said that we should stop taking for granted the creatures around us. Because under the current state of affairs, we may soon see many of them vanish without a notice. She recommends we should be aware that the problems British butterflies currently face reflect a much larger problem triggered by climate change.
During their research, scientists sifted through data on nearly 30 butterfly species living in more than 120 locations. The data was gathered through the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, a project designed to track butterflies since the mid-1970s.
Study authors also looked at the historic records of weather changes and compared the two sets of data. They found that extreme droughts like the one in 1995, which was the worst in more than two centuries, take their toll especially on drought-sensitive species.
The team found that six species of butterflies on the British islands face the highest risk of extinction due to extreme heat. The elegant green-veined white (pictured) and the playful speckled wood butterflies are only two of those species.
Researchers introduced all the data they had in a database and used a computer model to learn what fate these butterflies may have if temperatures get even warmer. Estimates were made for all years through 2100. The model showed that at the current pace of global warming, the six species of butterflies may go extinct by 2050.
Image Source: magicoflife.org