Say goodbye to the butterflies

European Dusky Large Blue (Phengaris nausithous)
The central European Dusky Large Blue will soon be speaking butterfly Swedish.
(photo: Josef Settele/Butterfly Conservation Europe)

Habitat loss due to modern farming and forestry has in recent decades led to huge losses in European butterfly populations. And to this we will soon have to add the effects of climate change, say scientists who contributed to a special issue of the open-access journal Biorisk titled “Climate risk atlas of European butterflies”. This sober ecological and environmental impact assessment acknowledges that some climate change is inevitable.

As temperatures rise in mid-latitude regions, the majority of butterflies will attempt to move north. But there is only so far the butterflies can go before their new environments cannot sustain them. The worst-case scenario sees the average European temperature rise 4.1°C by 2080. In that case over 95% of the land current occupied by 70 species of butterfly would become too warm. The best case is a 2.4°C temperature rise, which would result in 50% of the land occupied by 147 species becoming uncomfortably hot for the creatures.