Butterfly and plant responses to climate change in montane meadows of Grand Teton National Park
mediaposted on 2018-07-05, 00:00 authored by Diane Debinski
Montane systems may be most sensitive to climate change. Montane meadows are especially diverse and productive with respect to their plant communities, and as such, they are important food sources for a diverse group of herbivores, from small insect pollinators to large mammals. Temperature increases associated with climate change will likely lead to a decrease in the duration of snow cover, and this change could have a significant effect on the ecology of these systems. Butterflies can serve as ecological indicators because they are abundant, showy, and easily identified. Parnassius butterflies in the Tetons lay their eggs each year in midsummer. These eggs overwinter under the deep snow, hatching into caterpillars in the spring when snowpack melts, and then flying as butterflies in summer. We have been studying Parnassius butterflies and the flowering plants that they use for nectar in the Tetons for over 25 years. This talk will tell the story of how a small white butterfly may provide a window into understanding how climate change may be affecting montane ecosystems worldwide.