Climate and recent range changes in butterflies

  • Jane K. Hill
  • Chris D. Thomas
  • Brian Huntley


In order to make realistic predictions of species’ responses to future climate change we need to understand the relative importance of biotic versus abiotic factors in limiting species distributions. We focus on British butterflies, a group of species for which there are good current and historical distribution records. We review our previous studies investigating the relative importance of climate and habitat availability in limiting butterfly distributions. Our studies have used a combination of modelling and analysis of distribution records to investigate factors determining limits to species’ distributions in Europe, and to investigate recent range expansions of butterflies in Britain. Climates in Europe have warmed during the 20th century and many northern areas are improving for butterflies in terms of climate suitability. However, the widespread loss and fragmentation of natural habitats means that many climatically suitable areas are beyond the reach of dispersing adults and so species are unable to keep track of climate changes. In the future, many species may have the potential to occupy many northerly regions that are currently unsuitable. However, most of these newly available areas are remote from current distributions and many species are unlikely to be able to keep track of rapidly warming future climates.


Range Expansion Butterfly Species Habitat Availability Climate Suitability Bioclimate Variable 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  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, UK.Google Scholar
  2. Beerling D.J., Huntley B. & Bailey J.P., 1995, Climate and the distribution of Fallopia japonka: use of an introduced species to test the predictive capacity of response surfaces. J. Veg. Sci. 6: 269–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Coope G.R., 1978, Constancy of insect species versus inconstancy of Quaternary environments. In: L.A. Mound & N. Waloff (eds.) Diversity of Insect Faunas. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 176–187.Google Scholar
  4. Dennis R.L.H., 1993, Butterflies and Climate Change. Manchester University Press, UK.Google Scholar
  5. Dennis R.L.H. & Shreeve T.G., 1991, Climatic change and the British butterfly fauna: opportunities and constraints. Biol. Conserv. 55: 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Emmet A.M. & Heath J., 1990, The Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland. Harley Books, Colchester, UK.Google Scholar
  7. Heath J., Pollard E. & Thomas J.A., 1984, Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland. Viking, London.Google Scholar
  8. Hill J.K., Thomas C.D. & Huntley B., 1999, Climate and habitat availability determine 20th century changes in a butterfly’s range margins. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, 266: 1197–1206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hill J.K., Collingham Y.C., Thomas C.D., Blakeley D.S., Fox R., Moss D. & Huntley B., 2001a, Impacts of landscape structure on butterfly range expansion. Ecology Letters.Google Scholar
  10. Hill J.K., Thomas C.D., Fox R., Moss D. & Huntley B., 2001b, Analysing and modelling range changes in UK butterflies. In: I. Woiwod & D. Reynolds (eds.) Insect Movement: mechanisms and consequences. Royal Entomological Society 20th symposium, CABI, London, 415–441.Google Scholar
  11. Hill J.K. & Teller M.G., in press, Modelling the role of climate in limiting species’ distributions. In: T.G. Shreeve, A.S. Puliin & J. Settele (eds.) Ecology of European Butterflies, Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  12. Hill J.K., Thomas C.D. & Huntley B., in press, Modelling present and potential future ranges of European butterflies using climate response surfaces. In: W. Watt, C. Boggs & P. Erhlich (eds.) Proceedings of the 3rd International Butterfly Ecology & Evolution Symposium, Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hulme M. & Barrow E., 1997 (eds.) Climates of the British Isles; present, past and future. Routledge, UK.Google Scholar
  14. Huntley B., Berry P.M., Cramer W. & McDonald A., 1995, Modelling present and potential future ranges of some European higher plants using climate response surfaces. J. Biogeog. 22: 967–1001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jackson S.M., 1980, Changes since 1900 in the distribution of butterflies in Yorkshire and elsewhere in the north of England. Entomol. Rec. 105: 139–142.Google Scholar
  16. Leemans R. & Cramer W., 1991, Research Report RR-91-18, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (HASA). Laxenburg, Austria.Google Scholar
  17. Lensink R., 1997, Range expansion of raptors in Britain and the Netherlands since the 1960s: testing an individual-based diffusion model. J. Anim. Ecol. 66: 811–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mitchell J.F.B., Johns T.C., Gregory J.M. & Tett S., 1995, Climate response to increasing levels of greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols. Nature 376: 501–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Monserud R.A. & Leemans R., 1992, Comparing global vegetation maps with the Kappa statistic. Ecol. Model 62: 275–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Parmesan C., Ryrholm N., Stefanescu C., Hill J.K., Thomas C.D., Descimon H., Huntley B., Kaila L., Kullberg J., Tammaru T., Tennant J., Thomas J.A. & Warren M., 1999, Polewards shifts in geographical ranges of butterfly species associated with regional warming. Nature 399: 579–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pollard E., 1979, Population ecology and change in range of the White Admiral butterfly Ladoga Camilla L. in England. Ecol Entomol 4: 61–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pollard E. & Eversham B.C., 1995, Butterfly monitoring 2 — interpreting the changes. In: A.S. Pullin (ed.) Ecology and Conservation of Butterflies. Chapman & Hall, London, pp. 23–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pollard E. & Yates T.J., 1993, Monitoring Butterflies for Ecology and Conservation. Chapman & Hall, London.Google Scholar
  24. Pratt C., 1986-87, A history and investigation into the fluctuations of Polygonia c-album L. Entomol Rec. J. Var. 98: 197–203, 244-250, 99: 21-27.Google Scholar
  25. Roy D.B., Rothery P., Moss D., Pollard E. & Thomas J.A., in press, Butterfly numbers and weather: predicting historical trends in abundance and the future effects of climate change. J. Anim Ecol. 70: 201–217.Google Scholar
  26. Roy D.B. & Sparks T.H., 2000, Phenology of British butterflies and climate change. Global Change Biol. 6: 407–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Thomas C.D., Bodsworth E.J., Wilson R.J., Simmons A.D., Davies Z.G., Musche M. & Conradt L., 2001, Ecological and evolutionary processes at expanding range margins. Nature 411: 577–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Thomson G., 1980, The butterflies of Scotland. Croom-Helm, London.Google Scholar
  29. Tolman T., 1997, Butterflies of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins, London.Google Scholar
  30. Turner J.R.G., Gatehouse C.M. & Corey C.A., 1987, Does solar energy control organic diversity? Butterflies, moths and the British climate. Oikos 48: 195–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Uvarov B.P., 1931, Insects and climate. Trans. Entomol. Soc. Lond. 79: 1–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Watson R.T., Zinyowera M.C & Moss R.H. (eds.), 1998, The Regional Impacts of Climate Change; an assessment of vulnerability. IPCC, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane K. Hill
    • 1
    • 3
  • Chris D. Thomas
    • 2
  • Brian Huntley
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  2. 2.Centre for Biodiversity & Conservation, School of BiologyUniv. of LeedsLeedsUK
  3. 3.Environmental Research Centre, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of DurhamDurhamUK

Personalised recommendations