Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British Lepidoptera
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- Suggitt, A.J., Wilson, R.J., August, T.A. et al. J Insect Conserv (2015) 19: 237. doi:10.1007/s10841-014-9749-y
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Microclimate has been known to drive variation in the distribution and abundance of insects for some time. Until recently however, quantification of microclimatic effects has been limited by computing constraints and the availability of fine-scale biological data. Here, we tested fine-scale patterns of persistence/extinction in butterflies and moths against two computed indices of microclimate derived from Digital Elevation Models: a summer solar index, representing fine-scale variation in temperature, and a topographic wetness index, representing fine-scale variation in moisture availability. We found evidence of microclimate effects on persistence in each of four 20 × 20 km British landscapes selected for study (the Brecks, the Broads, Dartmoor, and Exmoor). Broadly, local extinctions occurred more frequently in areas with higher minimum or maximum solar radiation input, while responses to wetness varied with landscape context. This negative response to solar radiation is consistent with a response to climatic warming, wherein grid squares with particularly high minimum or maximum insolation values provided an increasingly adverse microclimate as the climate warmed. The variable response to wetness in different landscapes may have reflected spatially variable trends in precipitation. We suggest that locations in the landscape featuring cooler minimum and/or maximum temperatures could act as refugia from climatic warming, and may therefore have a valuable role in adapting conservation to climatic change.