Holocene climate changes and warm man-made refugia may explain why a sixth of British butterflies possess unnatural early-successional habitats

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Abstract

Analyses of their habitats indicate that 18% of British butterfly species are restricted to the earliest seral stages of ecosystems, whereas the same species occupy later seral stages in central Europe, where spring and summer temperatures are warmer. The microclimates of their British habitats are exceptionally warm, compensating for the cooler climate. Most of these British habitats are also ephemeral, and have long depended on man for their creation and regeneration This poses the question of where these species lived before man created their habitats, roughly 6000 BP, I suggest that they are relics from a period when British summers were warmer than today, and that they avoided extinction when the climate cooled by moving into warm refugia created by prehistoric man within three types of ecosystem If summer temperatures become warmer, these species should return to later seral stages that are commoner and less dependent on man.

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