Eur. J. Entomol. 110 (4): 633-642, 2013 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2013.086

A question of adaptability: Climate and habitat change lower trait diversity in butterfly communities in south-western Germany

Katharina J. FILZ1, Martin WIEMERS2, Anne HERRIG1, Matthias WEITZEL3, Thomas SCHMITT1
1 Biogeography Department, Faculty of Geography/Geosciences, Trier University, Universitätsring 15, 54296 Trier, Germany; e-mails: kfilz@yahoo.de; s6anherr@uni-trier.de; thsh@uni-trier.de
2 UFZ, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, 06120 Halle, Germany; e-mail: martin.wiemers@ufz.de
3 Graf-Reginar-Straße 43, 54294 Trier, Germany; e-mail: matthias-weitzel@web.de

Invertebrate diversity has rapidly declined throughout Europe during the last century. Various reasons for this decrease have been proposed including human induced factors like climate change. Temperature changes alter distributions and occurrences of butterflies by determining habitat conditions at different scales. We evaluated changes in the composition of butterfly communities recorded at nine areas of fallow ground in south-western Germany in 1973, 1986, 2010 and 2012 using Pollard's transect technique. To demonstrate the importance of climatic changes in affecting butterfly communities, we calculated the community temperature index (CTI) for each butterfly community in each year. Although they increased slightly, the CTI-values did not match the temperature trends recorded in the study region. However, the reduction in the standard deviations of the CTIs over time is reflected in the marked loss of cold- and warm-adapted species due to their inability to cope with temperature and land-use induced habitat changes. Results of our butterfly surveys indicate a marked decline in species richness and striking changes in the composition of the butterfly communities studied. This trend was most pronounced for habitat specialists, thus mirroring a depletion in trait diversity. Our results indicate that, in the course of large-scale anthropogenic changes, habitat degradation at smaller scales will continuously lead to the replacement of habitat specialists by ubiquitous species.

Keywords: Lepidoptera, species decline, community composition change, habitat specialisation, functional groups, community temperature index, fallows, south-western Germany

Received: March 20, 2013; Accepted: May 2, 2013; Prepublished online: October 1, 2013; Published: December 1, 2013

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