July 3, 2009

Butterfly offers lessons in climate change

The reintroduction of the Large Blue butterfly to Britain offers lessons in helping plants and animals threatened by climate change, scientists said.

The Large Blue, whose scientific name is Maculinea arion, was successfully reintroduced 25 years ago after becoming extinct in 1979, scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research said in a release Friday.

Large Blues imported from Sweden were aided by the creation of small heat-shielded habitats, which could give today's threatened species more time to adapt or migrate to regions better suited to them, Jeremy A. Thomas, a researcher from Oxford University, wrote in the current issue of Science magazine.

Heat-shielded habitats should mitigate the effects of global warming, but are not a long-term solution, Thomas said. Such habitat management could, however, counteract moderate fluctuations in temperature and prevent species from disappearing entirely, he said.