Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 217–225 | Cite as

The effect of temperature and habitat quality on abundance of the Glanville fritillary on the Isle of Wight: implications for conservation management in a warming climate



Creating variation in microclimates through habitat management is often advocated as a way of ameliorating the impact of climate warming, although the effectiveness of microclimate management has rarely been studied. We compared temporal variation in habitat quality (the availability of suitably warm microclimates) and ambient air temperature on the abundance of a highly thermophilous species of butterfly, the Glanville fritillary Melitaea cinxia, at one site on the south coast of the Isle of Wight, UK, from 1997 to 2010. Ground temperatures beneath the various habitat successional stages were measured and compared, and the relationship between butterfly abundance and hostplant and weather variables was examined. Temporal variation in habitat quality was almost twice as strong as a predictor of butterfly abundance as ambient air temperature. We found no relationship between abundance and rainfall. Comparisons of ground temperatures beneath habitats showed that earlier successional stages were considerably warmer than later successional stages, and the distribution of Glanville fritillary larval ‘webs’ within plots was restricted to these warmer habitats. Hostplants selected for oviposition by gravid females were also considerably warmer than ambient temperature. The importance of habitat quality reinforces the notion that thermophilous insects would benefit from site management practices that create thermally diverse environments. Heterogeneous habitats provide refugia for species intolerant of climate change, as well as opportunities for range expansion.


Melitaea cinxia Abundance Habitat quality Temperature Butterflies Hostplants 



This work as supported by NERC Grants NE/D009448/1 and NE/F007930/1. We are also grateful to the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society (IWNHAS), Andy Butler, David Simcox, Jeremy Thomas and Wightlink. We thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on a previous version of this manuscript.


  1. Asher J, Warren M, Fox R, Harding P, Jeffcoate G, Jeffcoate S (2001) The millennium atlas of butterflies in Britain and Ireland. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Bergman KO, Ask L, Askling J, Ignell H, Wahlman H, Milberg P (2008) Importance of boreal grasslands in Sweden for butterfly diversity and effects of local and landscape habitat factors. Biodivers Conserv 17:139–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biesmeijer JC, Roberts SPM, Reemer M, Ohlemueller R, Edwards M, Peeters T, Schaffers AP, Potts SG, Kleukers R, Thomas CD, Settele J, Kunin WE (2006) Parallel declines in pollinators and insect-pollinated plants in Britain and the Netherlands. Science 313:351–354CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Boggs CL, Inouye DW (2012) A single climate driver has direct and indirect effects on insect population dynamics. Ecol Lett 15:502–508CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourn NAD, Thomas JA (2002) The challenge of conserving grassland insects at the margins of their range in Europe. Biol Conserv 104:285–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Braby MF, Jones RE (1994) Effect of temperature and hostplants on survival, development and body-size in 3 tropical satyrine butterflies from North-Eastern Australia. Aust J Zool 42:195–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bryant SR, Thomas CD, Bale JS (2002) The influence of thermal ecology on the distribution of three nymphalid butterflies. J Appl Ecol 39:43–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen I-C, Hill JK, Ohlemüller R, Roy DB, Thomas CD (2011) Rapid range shifts of species associated with high levels of climate warming. Science 333:1024–1026CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Curtis RJ, Botham MS, Brereton TM, Isaac NJB (2014). The rise and demise of the Glanville fritillary on the Isle of Wight. J Insect Conserv (in press) Google Scholar
  10. Davies ZG, Wilson RJ, Brereton TM, Thomas CD (2005) The re-expansion and improving status of the silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) in Britain: a metapopulation success story. Biol Conserv 124:189–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davies ZG, Wilson RJ, Coles S, Thomas CD (2006) Changing habitat associations of a thermally constrained species, the silver-spotted skipper butterfly, in response to climate warming. J Anim Ecol 75:247–256CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Dennis RLH (2010) A resource-based habitat view for conservation: butterflies in the British landscape. Wiley, ChichesterCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dennis RLH, Shreeve TG (1991) Climatic change and the British butterfly fauna: opportunities and constraints. Biol Conserv 55:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dennis RLH, Sparks TH (2006) When is a habitat not a habitat? Dramatic resource use changes under differing weather conditions for the butterfly Plebejus argus. Biol Conserv 129:291–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dennis RLH, Dapporto L, Shreeve TG, John E, Coutsis JG, Kudrna O, Saarinen K, Ryrholm N, Williams WR (2008) Butterflies of European islands: the implications of the geography and ecology of rarity and endemicity for conservation. J Insect Conserv 12:205–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Devictor V, van Swaay C, Brereton T, Brotons L, Chamberlain D, Heliola J, Herrando S, Julliard R, Kuussaari M, Lindstrom A, Reif J, Roy DB, Schweiger O, Settele J, Stefanescu C, Van Strien A, Van Turnhout C, Vermouzek Z, WallisDeVries M, Wynhoff I, Jiguet F (2012) Differences in the climatic debts of birds and butterflies at a continental scale. Nat Clim Chang 2:121–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diamond SE, Frame AM, Martin RA, Buckley LB (2011) Species’ traits predict phenological responses to climate change in butterflies. Ecology 92:1005–1012CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Doak P, Kareiva P, Kingsolver J (2006) Fitness consequences of choosy oviposition for a time-limited butterfly. Ecology 87:395–408CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Dunn RR (2005) Modern insect extinctions, the neglected majority. Conserv Biol 19:1030–1036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Eilers S, Pettersson LB, Öckinger E (2013) Micro-climate determines oviposition site selection and abundance in the butterfly Pyrgus armoricanus at its northern range margin. Ecol Entomol 38:183–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gutierrez D, Menendez R (1995) Distribution and abundance of butterflies in a mountain area in the Northern Iberian Peninsula. Ecography 18:209–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hanski I (1998) Metapopulation dynamics. Nature 396:41–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hanski I, Meyke E (2005) Large-scale dynamics of the Glanville fritillary butterfly: landscape structure, population processes, and weather. Ann Zool Fenn 42:379–395Google Scholar
  24. Hanski I, Foley P, Hassell M (1996) Random walks in a metapopulation: how much density dependence is necessary for long-term persistence? J Anim Ecol 65:274–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Haslett JR (2008) European strategy for the conservation of invertebrates. Strasbourg, Council of EuropeGoogle Scholar
  26. Hassall C, Thompson DJ, French GC, Harvey IF (2007) Historical changes in the phenology of British Odonata are related to climate. Glob Change Biol 13:933–941CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hickling R, Roy DB, Hill JK, Fox R, Thomas CD (2006) The distributions of a wide range of taxonomic groups are expanding polewards. Glob Change Biol 12:450–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. IPCC (2013) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Working group I contribution to the IPCC 5th assessment report—Changes to the Underlying Scientific/Technical Assessment (IPCC-XXVI/Doc.4)Google Scholar
  29. Krämer B, Kämpf I, Enderle J, Poniatowski D, Fartmann T (2012) Microhabitat selection in a grassland butterfly: a trade-off between microclimate and food availability. J Insect Conserv 16:857–865Google Scholar
  30. Lawson CR, Bennie JJ, Thomas CD, Hodgson JA Wilson RJ (2012) Local and landscape management of an expanding range margin under climate change. J Appl Ecol 49:552–561Google Scholar
  31. Maclean IMD, Wilson RJ (2011) Recent ecological responses to climate change support predictions of high extinction risk. Proc Natl Acad Sci 108:12337–12342CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. McLaughlin JF, Hellmann JJ, Boggs CL, Ehrlich PR (2002) Climate change hastens population extinctions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 99:6070–6074CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Merrill RM, Gutierrez D, Lewis OT, Gutierrez J, Diez SB, Wilson RJ (2008) Combined effects of climate and biotic interactions on the elevational range of a phytophagous insect. J Anim Ecol 77:145–155CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Montoya D, Rogers L, Memmott J (2012) Emerging perspectives in the restoration of biodiversity-based ecosystem services. Trends Ecol Evol 27:666–672CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Morecroft MD (2012) Adapting conservation to a changing climate. J Appl Ecol 49:546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. New T (2009) Insect species conservation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nowicki P, Bonelli S, Barbero F, Balletto E (2009) Relative importance of density-dependent regulation and environmental stochasticity for butterfly population dynamics. Oecologia 161:227–239CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Ojanen SP, Nieminen M, Meyke E, Pöyry J, Hanski I (2013) Long-term metapopulation study of the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia): survey methods, data management, and long-term population trends. Ecol Evol 3:3713–3737CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Oliver T, Hill JK, Thomas CD, Brereton T, Roy DB (2009) Changes in habitat specificity of species at their climatic range boundaries. Ecol Lett 12:1091–1102CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Oliver TH, Roy DB, Brereton T, Thomas JA (2012a) Reduced variability in range-edge butterfly populations over three decades of climate warming. Glob Change Biol 18:1531–1539CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Oliver TH, Thomas CD, Hill JK, Brereton T Roy DB (2012b). Habitat associations of thermophilous butterflies are reduced despite climatic warming. Glob Change Biol 18:2720–2729Google Scholar
  42. Pettorelli N (2012) Climate change as a main driver of ecological research. J Appl Ecol 49:542–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pollard E (1988) Temperature, rainfall and butterfly numbers. J Appl Ecol 25:819–828CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Potts SG, Biesmeijer JC, Kremen C, Neumann P, Schweiger O, Kunin WE (2010) Global pollinator declines: trends, impacts and drivers. Trends Ecol Evol 25:345–353CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. R Development Core Team (2010) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. In: R Foundation for Statistical Computing Vienna, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  46. Renwick JAA, Chew FS (1994) Oviposition behavior in Lepidoptera. Annu Rev Entomol 39:377–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rosenberg NJ (1974) Microclimate:the biological environment. Wiley, LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Roy DB, Sparks TH (2000) Phenology of British butterflies and climate change. Glob Change Biol 6:407–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Roy DB, Thomas JA (2003) Seasonal variation in the niche, habitat availability and population fluctuations of a bivoltine thermophilous insect near its range margin. Oecologia 134:439–444CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Roy DB, Rothery P, Moss D, Pollard E, Thomas JA (2001) Butterfly numbers and weather: predicting historical trends in abundance and the future effects of climate change. J Anim Ecol 70:201–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Saastamoinen M (2007) Life-history, genotypic, and environmental correlates of clutch size in the Glanville fritillary butterfly. Ecol Entomol 32:235–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shreeve TG (1986) Egg-laying by the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria): the role of female behaviour, host plant abundance and temperature. Ecol Entomol 11:229–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sinclair BJ, Vernon P, Jaco Klok C, Chown SL (2003) Insects at low temperatures: an ecological perspective. Trends Ecol Evol 18:257–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sparks TH, Roy DB, Dennis RLH (2005) The influence of temperature on migration of Lepidoptera into Britain. Glob Change Biol 11:507–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sparks TH, Huber K, Dennis RLH (2006) Complex phenological responses to climate warming trends? Lessons from history. Eur J Entomol 103:379–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sparks TH, Dennis RLH, Croxton PJ, Cade M (2007) Increased migration of Lepidoptera linked to climate change. Eur J Entomol 104:139–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Storch D, Konvicka M, Benes J, Martinkova J, Gaston KJ (2003) Distribution patterns in butterflies and birds of the Czech Republic: separating effects of habitat and geographical position. J Biogeogr 30:1195–1205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Suggitt AJ, Gillingham PK, Hill JK, Huntley B, Kunin WE, Roy DB, Thomas CD (2011) Habitat microclimates drive fine-scale variation in extreme temperatures. Oikos 120:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sutherland WJ (1998) Conservation science and action. Blackwell Science, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Thomas JA (1983) The ecology and conservation of Lysandra bellargus (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae) in Britain. J Appl Ecol 20:59–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thomas JA (1991) Rare species conservation: case studies of European butterflies. In: Spellerberg IF, Goldsmith FB, Moris MG (eds) The scientific management of temperate communities for conservation. Paper presented at the 31st symposium of the British ecological society, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 149–197Google Scholar
  62. Thomas JA (1993) Holocene climate changes and warm man-made refugia may explain why a 6th of British butterflies possess unnatural early-successional habitats. Ecography 16:278–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thomas JA (1995a) The conservation of declining butterfly populations in Britain and Europe: priorities, problems and successes. Biol J Linn Soc 56:55–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Thomas JA (1995b) Why small cold-blooded insects pose different conservation problems to birds in modern landscapes. Ibis 137:S112–S119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thomas JA, Morris MG (1994) Patterns, mechanisms and rates of extinction among invertebrates in the United-Kingdom. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, B, Biol Sci 344:47–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thomas JA, Moss D, Pollard E (1994) Increased fluctuations of butterfly populations towards the northern edges of species ranges. Ecography 17:215–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Thomas JA, Rose RJ, Clarke RT, Thomas CD, Webb NR (1999) Intraspecific variation in habitat availability among ectothermic animals near their climatic limits and their centres of range. Funct Ecol 13:55–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Thomas JA, Bourn NAD, Clarke RT, Stewart KE, Simcox DJ, Pearman GS, Curtis R, Goodger B (2001) The quality and isolation of habitat patches both determine where butterflies persist in fragmented landscapes. Proc R Soc Lond, B, Biol Sci 268:1791–1796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Thomas CD, Cameron A, Green RE, Bakkenes M, Beaumont LJ, Collingham YC, Erasmus BFN, de Siqueira MF, Grainger A, Hannah L, Hughes L, Huntley B, van Jaarsveld AS, Midgley GF, Miles L, Ortega-Huerta MA, Peterson AT, Phillips OL, Williams SE (2004a) Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427:145–148CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Thomas JA, Telfer MG, Roy DB, Preston CD, Greenwood JJD, Asher J, Fox R, Clarke RT, Lawton JH (2004b) Comparative losses of British butterflies, birds, and plants and the global extinction crisis. Science 303:1879–1881CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Thomas J, Simcox D, Hovestadt T (2011) Evidence based conservation of butterflies. J Insect Conserv 15:241–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Turlure C, Choutt J, Baguette M, Van Dyck H (2010) Microclimatic buffering and resource-based habitat in a glacial relict butterfly: significance for conservation under climate change. Glob Change Biol 16:1883–1893CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. WallisDeVries MF, Baxter W, Van Vliet AJH (2011) Beyond climate envelopes: effects of weather on regional population trends in butterflies. Oecologia 167:559–571CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Weiss SB, Murphy DD, White RR (1988) Sun, slope, and butterflies: topographic determinants of habitat quality for Euphydryas editha. Ecology 69:1486–1496CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NERC Centre for Ecology and HydrologyWallingfordUK
  2. 2.University College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Institute of ZoologyZoological Society of LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Environment and Sustainability InstituteUniversity of ExeterPenrynUK

Personalised recommendations