“Nowhere to go except heaven”

Flying higher: This butterfly, Clodius Parnassian (Parnassius clodius), is more common at the top of its elevation range on Castle Peak than in the past. Photo credit: Heather Dwyer / UC Davis.

Under pressure from habitat loss and climate change, California butterfly diversity is falling fast at low elevations, according to an analysis by UC Davis lepidopterist Arthur Shapiro.

Meanwhile, according to the study, to be published  by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, butterfly diversity is actually going up at tree line. The cause, reports the UC Davis news service, is lower-elevation species reacting to the warming climate by moving upslope to higher, cooler elevations.

However, there is only so high they can go and the report also finds that diversity among high elevation butterflies is falling as temperatures become uncomfortably warm for them and, Shapiro says, “There is nowhere to go except heaven.”


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