Variable rates of response by species to climate change

Georgina Palmer (1), Jane K Hill (2), Tom M Brereton (3), David R Brooks (4), Jason W Chapman (5), Richard Fox (6), Tom H Oliver (7), Chris D Thomas(8)

 

1 Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York, YO10 5DD, UK,  georgina.palmer@york.ac.uk, @GeorginaTwit

2 Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York, YO10 5DD, UK,  jane.hill@york.ac.uk, @JaneHillYork

3 Butterfly Conservation, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5QP, UK.  tbrereton@butterfly-conservation.org @tom_m_brereton

4 AgroEcology Department, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK  david.brooks@rothamsted.ac.uk

5 AgroEcology Department, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK  jason.chapman@rothamsted.ac.uk

5 Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK

6 Butterfly Conservation, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5QP, UK  rfox@butterfly-conservation.org @RichardFoxBC

7 University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 217, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6AH, UK toliver@ceh.ac.uk @Dr_Dolittle_81

8 Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York, YO10 5DD, UK,  chris.thomas@york.ac.uk, @Prof_CThomas

Species’ responses to recent environmental changes have been highly heterogeneous, showing variation in abundance trends, geographic range size changes, and directions of range shifts. Using distribution and abundance data collected for British butterflies (n = 24 species) and moths (n = 131 species), we show that approximately 60% of overall explained variation in abundance trends can be accounted for by species- specific sensitivities and exposure to climate. Less direct measures of changes in status (range size and northern  range  margin)  were  also  predictable,  but  more  weakly  so.  These  results  indicate  that individualistic responses to climate are responsible for a large component of the observed variation among species in their distribution and abundance changes. We go on to examine whether any additional variation can be explained by species-specific habitat specialism and habitat availability. We conclude that variation in species’ responses to recent climate change may be more predictable than previously recognized.

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