Metapopulation dynamics in a changing climate: Increasing spatial synchrony in weather conditions drives metapopulation synchrony of a butterfly inhabiting a fragmented landscape

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Habitat fragmentation and climate change are both prominent manifestations of global change, but there is little knowledge on the specific mechanisms of how climate change may modify the effects of habitat fragmentation, for example, by altering dynamics of spatially structured populations. The long-term viability of metapopulations is dependent on independent dynamics of local populations, because it mitigates fluctuations in the size of the metapopulation as a whole. Metapopulation viability will be compromised if climate change increases spatial synchrony in weather conditions associated with population growth rates. We studied a recently reported increase in metapopulation synchrony of the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) in the Finnish archipelago, to see if it could be explained by an increase in synchrony of weather conditions. For this, we used 23years of butterfly survey data together with monthly weather records for the same period. We first examined the associations between population growth rates within different regions of the metapopulation and weather conditions during different life-history stages of the butterfly. We then examined the association between the trends in the synchrony of the weather conditions and the synchrony of the butterfly metapopulation dynamics. We found that precipitation from spring to late summer are associated with the M. cinxia per capita growth rate, with early summer conditions being most important. We further found that the increase in metapopulation synchrony is paralleled by an increase in the synchrony of weather conditions. Alternative explanations for spatial synchrony, such as increased dispersal or trophic interactions with a specialist parasitoid, did not show paralleled trends and are not supported. The climate driven increase in M. cinxia metapopulation synchrony suggests that climate change can increase extinction risk of spatially structured populations living in fragmented landscapes by altering their dynamics.
TidskriftGlobal Change Biology
Sidor (från-till)4316-4329
Antal sidor14
StatusPublicerad - sep 2018
MoE-publikationstypA1 Tidskriftsartikel-refererad


  • 1181 Ekologi, evolutionsbiologi

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