Butterfly species may need to be relocated from the Lake District to Scotland as a result of climate change, academics have warned.
Academics at the University of York have said that the diversity and resilience of cold-loving butterfly species is threatened by global heating which will destroy genetically unique populations.
Native mountain-dwelling butterflies such as the mountain ringlet, the bright-eyed ringlet and the dewy ringlet could have to be translocated to higher altitudes as their cooler habitat disappears to avoid extinction.
According to the researchers, this species will have to be evacuated from the Lake District and moved to higher altitudes further north in Scotland, Scandinavia and the Alps.
Populations of mountain ringlet in the Lake District are the most diverse in Europe – after those in the western Alps – however they face being wiped out by global heating.
The mountain ringlet species has already moved 130 to 150 metres uphill in Britain over the past 50 years as a result of climate change, with academics warning that they will eventually “run out of mountain” because there are no cooler, higher altitudes left.
Melissa Minter, of the University of York, who was the lead author of the study, published in Ecology and Evolution, said: “Genetic diversity is so important to the survival of a species, particularly in the face of climate change, because the greater the variation in genes, the more likely it is that individuals in a population will have the genetic capacity to adapt to changes in the environment.
“Our study shows how past climatic events have shaped unique genetic diversity across the populations of the mountain ringlet, and the impact that current and future climate change is likely to have.
“With the genetic diversity of cold-adapted butterflies so at risk in our warming world, conservationists may have to take more controversial steps – such as the relocation of populations – in order to ensure their long-term survival into the future.”
Mike Morecroft, a climate change specialist for Natural England, said: “Climate change is one of the most serious challenges for nature conservation today and good science is essential to developing an effective response.
“Cold-loving species in the uplands, such as the mountain ringlet, are amongst the most vulnerable species to rising temperatures in England. This study provides a unique insight into the importance of local genetic diversity, which will help us to assess the best options to protect these species going forward.”
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Butterflies, Small mountain ringlet, Natural environment, Climate change
World news – US – Butterfly species may be relocated from the Lake District to Scotland as a result of climate change