Washington Post: Butterflies are vanishing out West. Scientists say climate change is to blame. The rate of decline is “calamitous,” one scientist said, and has implications for crops and the environment.
Hundreds of butterfly species across the American West are vanishing as the region becomes hotter, drier and more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to a study released Thursday.
In a swath of 11 states, from California to Montana, and from New Mexico to Washington, the populations of a majority of 450 butterfly species are dropping, according to observations by professionals and amateurs stretching back to the 1970s.
The loss of butterflies across Western forests and prairies, like the similar drop in bumblebees nationwide due to rising temperatures, is troubling because both insects play a key role in pollinating crops and wildflowers. And the findings may add to fears among researchers of a broader die-off of insects that could be underway everywhere from Germany to Puerto Rico and beyond — a potential and debated bugpocalypse that threatens to upend ecosystems across the world.
“The influence of climate change is driving those declines, which makes sense because they’re so widespread,” said Matt Forister, a biology professor at the University of Nevada at Reno and co-author of the study published in the journal Science. “It has to be something geographically pervasive.”