Friday, 22 March 2013

Using dragonflies as climate change indicators

Climate change indicators effects on biodiversity

March 2013. Monitoring communities of climate sensitive species, such as insects, could enable scientists to develop indicators for climate change effects on biodiversity and help devise policies to protect it.

With climate change, flora and fauna shift their seasonal inner clock. For example, fruit tree blossom earlier than previous years. But many species may not be able to adapt as quickly as the climate changes, according to a recent report by the European Environmental Agency. As a result, there is currently a need to develop simple metrics of climate impacts on biodiversity. This could help policy makers to develop biodiversity protection measures to mitigate and adapt to the effect of climate change.

Insects - Good climate indicators
Insects, for example, are good climate indicators as their development depends on temperature. German scientists have now found that the regional composition of butterfly and dragonfly communities has already changed in the last decades. This is according to a study called "Climate Change and Biodiversity" about to be published within two months. "We know a great deal from modelling studies [about climate impact on biodiversity], but we know to a lesser extent what really happens," Maik Denner, one of the study's co-authors, tells He works as a nature conservation scientist at the State Office for the Environment, Agriculture and Geology in Dresden, Germany.

The study is based on using biodiversity monitoring to assess the effect of climate change, as established biodiversity monitoring programmes such as existing ones in Switzerland, the UK and Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia. In their study, the scientists used species distribution and monitoring data to calculate the so-called community temperature index (CTI) of butterflies and, for the first time, dragonflies.

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