The cool wet summer this year has stalled the sliver-spotted skipper butterflies' recovery from near extinction due to loss of habitat.
It has been established by many studies that butterflies are sensitive to even the slightest change in temperatures. The sliver-spotted skipper butterfly is one such species that is just about recovering from extinction due to loss of habitat, thanks to several conservation efforts. However, the cool wet summer this year has stalled this process as the butterfly struggles to find warmer temperatures.
A study by researchers from the University of Exeter in collaboration with the Universities of York and Liverpool, Sussex Wildlife Trust, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Butterfly Conservation was conducted to analyse the survival chances of this species. Researchers of the 27-year-long study found that local fluctuation of temperatures directly influence the population of the sliver-spotted skipper butterfly and also has an impact on the butterfly colonizing new sites.
"Although we know that the climate overall is warming there is still much variability in the weather from one year to the next. This variability presents a threat to southern British butterflies that we might expect to take advantage of warmer conditions to colonise further north. In warmer years the silver-spotted skipper, which needs a balmy 25°C to become fully active, has expanded its range. However during the recent cold wet summers we have found the skipper clinging to the warmest south-facing hillsides waiting for better weather," said lead author Dr Jonathan Bennie from the University of Exeter in a press release.
For the study, researchers used weather and butterfly records since 1892 and analyzed how microclimates, created by different slopes and aspects, affect the population of butterflies, where they were, and how quickly the species has been able to colonize new locations as the climate has warmed.
Co-author Dr Jenny Hodgson from the University of Liverpool said that through the study they were able to produce an accurate sketch of the butterfly's expansion and is hopeful that this discovery can help predict which sites would be best for the conservation of these butterflies.