Global warming and chronic climate change threaten the survival of six species of butterflies in the UK, says a Natural Climate Change report published under the lead authorship of Dr Tom Oliver from the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).
The study was a collaborative venture by CEH, the University of Exeter and Butterfly Conservation, Natural England, a charity organization dedicated to saving butterflies. Although this study was limited to butterflies, the results could be valid for other creatures such as beetles, birds, dragonflies and moths. Butterflies were chosen for the study on account of them being ideal subjects for the investigation.
Driven by severe droughts, climate change has reached chronic levels which could potentially sabotage the survival of these six endangered butterfly species, including speckled wood, ringlet, large white, large skipper, green-veined white and small white. These six species can disappear forever from this planet by the year 2050, if adequate measures are not undertaken immediately, warns the report. These species are drought-sensitive and the extreme differences between hot and cold climates are proving disastrous for them. The habitats of the butterflies are being fragmented and if left unchecked could potentially endanger them.
There are multiple climate projections which illustrate that drought conditions are going to get more severe and extreme, especially under the influence of increased carbon gas emissions. These projections were made by taking into consideration results of 17 varied climate models and the overall results suggest that if CO2 emissions are not decreased below existing levels, these creatures’ chances for survival beyond 2050 look remote.
While the scenario looks grim and formidable, there are possible solutions powered by human intervention that could ameliorate the effects of such catastrophes. Reduced carbon emissions, habitat restoration or perhaps a combination of both is imperative to delay the extinction of these warm and beautiful creatures at least till 2100. Dr Oliver added that losses are expected to be more severe in dry areas with enhanced habitat fragmentation whereas wet areas which lesser fragmentation could provide the much-needed refuge.
Another measure could be to have biologists intervene to improve the species’ hardiness and survival chances. The report also looks at local conservation methods to help these creatures. However, the effectiveness of these measures is directly linked to effective controls on carbon emissions and habitat restoration. Moreover, there may not be enough time for the butterflies to adapt themselves in order to become more resistant to drought as their population is already quite small. In this cruel race between extinction and evolution, extinction could easily win if effective policy measures such as considerable reduction of carbon emissions along with habitat restoration are not put in place immediately.