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Williams on Butterflies and Climate Change


Ernest H. Williams
Ernest H. Williams

An article co-authored by Ernest Williams, the William R. Kenan Professor of Biology Emeritus and lecturer in biology, was recently published in the International Journal of Biometeorology. “Climate effects on late-season flight times of Massachusetts butterflies” is a result of a collaboration between Williams and a research group at Boston University.

Williams and his co-authors had previously published two studies of the effect of a warming climate on the timing of spring flight of a few Massachusetts butterfly species. In this new article, the group examined the effects of climate change on fall flight of all late flying species.

The researchers analyzed data collected by the Massachusetts Butterfly Club over a 22-year period and found that seven of 20 species are now flying later in the fall than they were two decades ago. Furthermore, when fall months are warmer and wetter, the flight of numerous species is extended into November.

The study showed that life history characteristics of the species affect how much they are responding to climate change.

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