Abstract

We examined the effect of regional climate warming on the phenology of butterfly species in boreal forest ecosystems in Manitoba, Canada. For the period 1971–2004, the mean monthly temperatures in January, September, and December increased significantly, as did the mean temperatures for several concurrent monthly periods. The mean annual temperature increased &ap;0.05&deg;C/yr over the study period. The annual number of frost-free days and degree-day accumulations increased as well. We measured the response of 19 common butterfly species to these temperature changes with the date of first appearance, week of peak abundance, and the length of flight period over the 33-yr period of 1972–2004. Although adult butterfly response was variable for spring and summer months, 13 of 19 species showed a significant (P < 0.05) increase in flight period extending longer into the autumn. Flight period extensions increased by 31.5 ± 13.9 (SD) d over the study period for 13 butterfly species significantly affected by the warming trend. The early autumn and winter months warmed significantly, and butterflies seem to be responding to this warming trend with a change in the length of certain life stages. Two species, Junonia coenia and Euphydryas phaeton, increased their northerly ranges by &ap;150 and 70 km, respectively. Warmer autumns and winters may be providing opportunities for range extensions of more southerly butterfly species held at bay by past climatic conditions.

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