Our work aims to assess how butterfly communities in the Italian Maritime Alps changed over the past 40 years, in parallel with altitudinal shifts occurring in plant communities. In 2019, we sampled butterflies at 7 grassland sites, between 1300–1900 m, previously investigated in 2009 and 1978, by semi-quantitative linear transects. Fine-scale temperature and precipitation data elaborated by optimal interpolation techniques were used to quantify climate changes. The changes in the vegetation cover and main habitat alterations were assessed by inspection of aerial photographs (1978–2018/1978–2006–2015). The vegetation structure showed a marked decrease of grassland habitats and an increase of woods (1978–2009). Plant physiognomy has remained stable in recent years (2009–2019) with some local exceptions due to geomorphic disturbance. We observed butterfly ‘species substitution’ indicating a general loss in the more specialised and a general gain in more tolerant elements. We did not observe any decrease in species richness, but rather a change in guild compositions, with (i) an overall increased abundance in some widespread and common lowland species and (ii) the disappearance (or strong decrease) of some alpine (high elevation) species, so that ‘resilience’ could be just delusive. Changes in butterfly community composition were consistent with predicted impacts of local warming.

Changes in Alpine Butterfly Communities during the Last 40 Years

Bonelli S.;Cerrato C.;Barbero F.;Boiani M. V.;Buffa G.;Casacci L. P.;Fracastoro L.;Zaccagno M.;Balletto E.
2022

Abstract

Our work aims to assess how butterfly communities in the Italian Maritime Alps changed over the past 40 years, in parallel with altitudinal shifts occurring in plant communities. In 2019, we sampled butterflies at 7 grassland sites, between 1300–1900 m, previously investigated in 2009 and 1978, by semi-quantitative linear transects. Fine-scale temperature and precipitation data elaborated by optimal interpolation techniques were used to quantify climate changes. The changes in the vegetation cover and main habitat alterations were assessed by inspection of aerial photographs (1978–2018/1978–2006–2015). The vegetation structure showed a marked decrease of grassland habitats and an increase of woods (1978–2009). Plant physiognomy has remained stable in recent years (2009–2019) with some local exceptions due to geomorphic disturbance. We observed butterfly ‘species substitution’ indicating a general loss in the more specialised and a general gain in more tolerant elements. We did not observe any decrease in species richness, but rather a change in guild compositions, with (i) an overall increased abundance in some widespread and common lowland species and (ii) the disappearance (or strong decrease) of some alpine (high elevation) species, so that ‘resilience’ could be just delusive. Changes in butterfly community composition were consistent with predicted impacts of local warming.
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https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4450/13/1/43
Climate change; Community ecology; Geomorphic disturbance; Long-term changes; Maritime alps; Mountain ecosystem; Reforestation
Bonelli S.; Cerrato C.; Barbero F.; Boiani M.V.; Buffa G.; Casacci L.P.; Fracastoro L.; Provenzale A.; Rivella E.; Zaccagno M.; Balletto E.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2318/1833651
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