Poleward shifts of tropical butterflies due to climate change

Hsueh-Yi Pan (1), Wen-Chen Chu (2), Yu-Chuan Chiu (2), Han-Tzu Hsu (2), Huai-Sheng Fang (2), I-Ching Chen (3)

1 Department of Life Sciences, National Cheng Kung University, No.1, University Road, Tainan City 701, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

2 Endemic Species Research Institute, 1, Ming-shen East Road, Chichi Township, Nantou County, 552, Taiwan (R.O.C)

3 Department of Life Sciences, National Cheng Kung University, No.1, University Road, Tainan City 701, Taiwan (R.O.C.), chenic@mail.ncku.edu.tw

Mounting evidence of range shifts has been found and, despite idiosyncratic responses, species were largely moving poleward or upward in search of cooler climate. However, a gap of knowledge has never been filled – whether tropical lowland species have undertaken latitudinal shifts, and if so, were they able to keep up with climate change? Answers are urgently required, for tropical lowland biota is at risk of extinction due to global warming and habitat loss. Here, we reported, to the best of our knowledge, the first evidence of poleward shifts of low-latitude ectotherms. In 2013-2014, we revisited 26 butterfly assemblages in central Taiwan (23°N-25°N), after 20 years of the original survey in 1993-1998. We found that butterflies have on average moved 10.4 km north (N = 35, t = 3.7, p < 0.001), in response to regional warming of 0.18℃. Surprisingly, the movement was comparable to local isotherm shifts of 9.4 to 12.9 km. Fingerprint of climate change on species redistribution was evident, for 62 present of the species tracked both temperature and precipitation niche. Changes of community temperature indices revealed that most assemblages were replaced by species associated with warmer temperature. While many species were shown to be able to carry out rapid range shifts across fragmented landscape, a large proportion of species were too rare to be analyzed. Investigating the fate of rare species as well as mechanisms of rapid movements is crucial for conserving tropical lowland biodiversity under climate change.

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