Climate change increases the spatial mismatch between protected areas and butterfly diversity hotspots in Southeast Asia

Dr Toby PN Tsang1, Dr Shuang  Xing1, Prof Richard T Corlett2, Dr Patrick R Roehrdanz3, Dr Timothy Bonebrake1

1School of Biological Sciences, The University Of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, 2Center for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens, Chinese Academy of Sciences, , China, 3Conservation International, Arlington, USA

Many studies have shown that species have responded to climate change via distribution shifts. Whether such shifts may change the effectiveness of protected areas remain unclear, especially among Southeast Asian butterflies. Within the framework of SPARC (Spatial Planning for Protected Areas in Response to Climate Change), using species distribution models, we assessed how climatic suitability would vary for 197 butterfly species within Southeast Asia under different climate change scenarios. Additionally, we identified butterfly diversity hotspots through comparing the climatic suitability of sites for all studied species, and subsequently evaluating the coverage of hotspots by the current protected area network. Our results indicated that the distribution of 133 species would shrink in at least one climate change scenario, and 38 species would have reduced distributions in all scenarios. The protected area network in Southeast Asia was estimated to cover only 6.7% of climatically-suitable sites at present indicating poor coverage. Coverage was projected to further decrease by another 1% with climate change. Altogether, our results indicate that Southeast Asian butterflies are threatened by both climate change and under-representation by the protected area network. Based on our results, we specifically suggest that regions such as Sumatra, Java and Mindanao (Southern Philippines) should be prioritized for protected area establishment to conserve butterflies in the face of accelerating warming and habitat loss across Asia.


Tim Bonebrake is an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. His research spans a range of topics within global change and tropical conservation.

Species on the Move

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The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.

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