Modelling climate-driven range changes of European butterflies and their host plants – do transient dynamics matter?

Duration: 2018 – 2022

Funding: Austrian Science Fund (FWF)


The loss of biodiversity is among the most important and widely discussed effects of anthropogenic climate warming. To escape extinction, species may respond to a changing climate by shifting their ranges to track the climate suitable to them. Such range shifts are under the joint control of various processes including the magnitude of climatic change, the growth rate of existing populations, the mobility of individuals and (trophic) interactions with other species. These processes have hardly ever been considered simultaneously so far limiting our ability to predict individual species´ ranges and their combined consequences for regional or global biodiversity. In this project we will model the range shifts of about 30 host-specific European butterfly species considering interactions with their larval food plants under different scenarios of 21st century climate change. More specifically, demographic and dispersal processes of butterfly populations will be linked to the – simultaneously changing – geographical distribution of their host plants to (1) answer theoretical questions on the possible effects of biotic interactions on species migration under climate change; and (2) evaluate whether and to which extent the existing European protected area network Natura 2000 allows the coupled butterfly-host plant systems to track the changing climate.


Karl Hülber