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Biol Lett. Oct 23, 2010; 6(5): 674–677.
Published online Mar 17, 2010. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2010.0053
PMCID: PMC2936131
Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming
Michael R. Kearney,1* Natalie J. Briscoe,1 David J. Karoly,2 Warren P. Porter,3 Melanie Norgate,4 and Paul Sunnucks4
1Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
2School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
3Department of Zoology, The University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA
4School of Biological Sciences, Australian Centre for Biodiversity, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia
*Author for correspondence (mrke/at/unimelb.edu.au).
Received January 19, 2010; Accepted February 26, 2010.
Abstract
There is strong correlative evidence that human-induced climate warming is contributing to changes in the timing of natural events. Firm attribution, however, requires cause-and-effect links between observed climate change and altered phenology, together with statistical confidence that observed regional climate change is anthropogenic. We provide evidence for phenological shifts in the butterfly Heteronympha merope in response to regional warming in the southeast Australian city of Melbourne. The mean emergence date for H. merope has shifted −1.5 days per decade over a 65-year period with a concurrent increase in local air temperatures of approximately 0.16°C per decade. We used a physiologically based model of climatic influences on development, together with statistical analyses of climate data and global climate model projections, to attribute the response of H. merope to anthropogenic warming. Such mechanistic analyses of phenological responses to climate improve our ability to forecast future climate change impacts on biodiversity.
Keywords: phenology, biophysical ecology, physiological ecology, climate change, mechanistic model, ecological forecasting
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