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Winter chilling speeds spring development of temperate butterflies

Author:
Stålhandske, Sandra, Gotthard, Karl, Leimar, Olof
Source:
The journal of animal ecology 2017 v.86 no.4 pp. 718-729
ISSN:
0021-8790
Subject:
butterflies, climate change, climatic factors, cold treatment, ectothermy, latitude, models, phenology, prediction, pupae, pupal development, spring, temperature, winter, Sweden, United Kingdom
Abstract:
Understanding and predicting phenology has become more important with ongoing climate change and has brought about great research efforts in the recent decades. The majority of studies examining spring phenology of insects have focussed on the effects of spring temperatures alone. Here we use citizen‐collected observation data to show that winter cold duration, in addition to spring temperature, can affect the spring emergence of butterflies. Using spatial mixed models, we disentangle the effects of climate variables and reveal impacts of both spring and winter conditions for five butterfly species that overwinter as pupae across the UK, with data from 1976 to 2013 and one butterfly species in Sweden, with data from 2001 to 2013. Warmer springs lead to earlier emergence in all species and milder winters lead to statistically significant delays in three of the five investigated species. We also find that the delaying effect of winter warmth has become more pronounced in the last decade, during which time winter durations have become shorter. For one of the studied species, Anthocharis cardamines (orange tip butterfly), we also make use of parameters determined from previous experiments on pupal development to model the spring phenology. Using daily temperatures in the UK and Sweden, we show that recent variation in spring temperature corresponds to 10–15 day changes in emergence time over UK and Sweden, whereas variation in winter duration corresponds to 20 days variation in the south of the UK versus only 3 days in the south of Sweden. In summary, we show that short winters delay phenology. The effect is most prominent in areas with particularly mild winters, emphasising the importance of winter for the response of ectothermic animals to climate change. With climate change, these effects may become even stronger and apply also at higher latitudes.
Agid:
5720718