Assisted colonization can help wildlife survive in a warming world

February 18th, 2009 - 4:15 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 18 (ANI): In a new research, biologists have suggested that assisted colonization can play a vital role in helping wildlife to survive in a warming world.

The research, led by biologists at Durham and York Universities, and funded by NERC, aimed to examine the implications of climate change for the conservation and management of biodiversity by looking at the distribution of butterflies.

They have shown that translocation to climatically suitable areas can work and that butterflies can survive beyond their northern ranges if theyre given a helping hand to get to suitable new habitats.

The research team ran a series of climate-change models to identify areas in northern England where, as a result of the climate warming of recent decades, butterflies found further south might thrive but which they had not yet reached.

Researchers then transported Marbled White and Small Skipper butterflies to two of these climatically-suitable sites that were well beyond the butterflies northern range boundaries.

Between 1999 and 2000, free flying individuals were collected from sites in North Yorkshire and translocated, using soft cages, to release sites in disused quarries in County Durham and Northumberland.

These sites had ample suitable breeding habitat for the butterflies, and were chosen after careful discussion with local experts.

After release, the introduced populations were monitored over the following 8 years.

The teams modeling shows that there is a lag between climate change and distribution change, and the practical results prove that butterflies can flourish in habitats that they might not normally be able to reach.

According to professor Brian Huntley from Durham University, The results show that, although areas in the north are becoming suitable for a wider range of butterflies, shifts in butterfly distributions are lagging behind climate change because many species have limited mobility or struggle to cross large distances between sites offering suitable habitat.

The success of the assisted colonization demonstrates for the first time that moving species to areas identified as newly climatically suitable can play a role in wildlife conservation, he said.

This is likely to be especially important for rare species and for those species that experience difficulty in crossing areas of unfavorable habitat, he added. (ANI)

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