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Climate change, phenology, and butterfly host plant utilization

Navarro-Cano, Jose A., Karlsson, Bengt, Posledovich, Diana, Toftegaard, Tenna, Wiklund, Christer, Ehrlén, Johan, Gotthard, Karl
Ambio 2015 v.44 no.Supplement 1 pp. 78-88
biodiversity, butterflies, climate, flight, flowering, global warming, host plants, latitude, phenology, spring
Knowledge of how species interactions are influenced by climate warming is paramount to understand current biodiversity changes. We review phenological changes of Swedish butterflies during the latest decades and explore potential climate effects on butterfly–host plant interactions using the Orange tip butterfly Anthocharis cardamines and its host plants as a model system. This butterfly has advanced its appearance dates substantially, and its mean flight date shows a positive correlation with latitude. We show that there is a large latitudinal variation in host use and that butterfly populations select plant individuals based on their flowering phenology. We conclude that A. cardamines is a phenological specialist but a host species generalist. This implies that thermal plasticity for spring development influences host utilization of the butterfly through effects on the phenological matching with its host plants. However, the host utilization strategy of A. cardamines appears to render it resilient to relatively large variation in climate.