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Keywords:

  • Butterfly;
  • climate change;
  • flight period;
  • generation;
  • Lepidoptera;
  • moth;
  • phenology;
  • species traits;
  • voltinism

Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 1475–1484

Abstract

Changes in phenology are correlated with climate change. However, we still struggle to understand the traits making species susceptible to climate change, and the implications of species’ reactions for communities and food webs. Butterflies and moths are an ecologically important group that have shown pronounced phenological changes over the last decades. Tests using a > 150-year dataset from 566 European butterfly and moth species demonstrated that variation in phenological change was strongly related to traits describing plant–herbivore interactions (larval diet breadth, diet composition), and the life cycle. The results indicate that climate change related shifts in phenology are correlated with the seasonal availability and palatability of food plants. Lepidopterans feeding on herbaceous plants showed smaller shifts in flight periods but larger increases in voltinism than lepidopterans feeding on woody plants. Consequently, the effect of herbivorous lepidopterans may increase in herb-rich grassland ecosystems under warmer conditions, and not in forest ecosystems.