Friday, 25 July 2014

Butterflies illustrate the effects of environmental change

24th July 2014

1 hour ago

Changes in butterfly fauna are yielding surprising insights into our changing environment. The effects of nitrogen from fertilizer or precipitation on the food plants and microclimate of caterpillars have a significant impact on butterfly communities in Northwestern Europe. This according to research by Wageningen entomologist Michiel Wallis de Vries published in the latest edition of Basic and Applied Ecology.

Changes in land use, climate and nitrogen deposition are considered as the main driving forces behind the quality of our natural environment. We can determine how these forces influence different species by examining the ecological traits of these species. "We seldom get past the circular argument that specialists are facing increasing pressure and generalists are becoming increasingly common," says Michiel Wallis de Vries, special professor of Insect Ecology and Conservation at Wageningen University. "We recently made a breakthrough beyond that circular reasoning with an extensive analysis of the characteristics of butterflies in Northwestern Europe, which has led to surprising insights."



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