Effect of local weather on butterfly flight behaviour, movement, and colonization: significance for dispersal under climate change

A. Cormont, A.H. Malinowska, O. Kostenko, V. Radchuk, L. Hemerik, M.F. Wallis de Vries, J. Verboom

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85 Citations (Scopus)


Recent climate change is recognized as a main cause of shifts in geographical distributions of species. The impacts of climate change may be aggravated by habitat fragmentation, causing regional or large scale extinctions. However, we propose that climate change also may diminish the effects of fragmentation by enhancing flight behaviour and dispersal of ectothermic species like butterflies. We show that under weather conditions associated with anticipated climate change, behavioural components of dispersal of butterflies are enhanced, and colonization frequencies increase. In a field study, we recorded flight behaviour and mobility of four butterfly species: two habitat generalists (Coenonympha pamphilus; Maniola jurtina) and two specialists (Melitaea athalia; Plebejus argus), under different weather conditions. Flying bout duration generally increased with temperature and decreased with cloudiness. Proportion of time spent flying decreased with cloudiness. Net displacement generally increased with temperature. When butterflies fly longer, start flying more readily and fly over longer distances, we expect dispersal propensity to increase. Monitoring data showed that colonization frequencies moreover increased with temperature and radiation and decreased with cloudiness. Increased dispersal propensity at local scale might therefore lower the impact of habitat fragmentation on the distribution at a regional scale. Synergetic effects of climate change and habitat fragmentation on population dynamics and species distributions might therefore appear to be more complex than previously assumed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-503
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • climatic change
  • weather data
  • animal behaviour
  • flight
  • lepidoptera
  • migration
  • dispersion
  • british butterflies
  • range margins
  • habitat
  • landscapes
  • metapopulations
  • temperature
  • responses
  • search
  • models
  • wind


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