Global Warming Has Its Benefits: Rare Butterfly Flourishing Thanks To Warming Planet

on May 25, 2012 10:09 AM EDT

Brown Argus
The brown argus butterfly, a small, rare butterfly that lives in England, has expanded its range, thanks to global warming. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Although global warming can have disastrous consequences, at least one species is benefiting from the increased temperatures. The brown argus butterfly, a small, rare butterfly that lives in England, has expanded its range, thanks to the warming planet.

"The butterfly is now present throughout much of the south and east of England as far north as South and East Yorkshire," Rachel Pateman,  study author and researcher at the University of York, told BBC Nature News. "This is unusual for species which are considered fairly scarce and specialized and so we were interested to discover what might have caused this rapid range expansion."

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Researchers and volunteers spent the last two decades observing the brown argus population and found the butterfly in areas it never used to be.

"There was something unusual about the degree to which it was spreading its range," said an author of the study, Jane K. Hill, a biologist at York University, told the New York Times. "It was turning up in places that were unexpected."

Decades ago, the brown Argus "was sort of a special butterfly that you would have to go to a special place to see and now it's a butterfly you can see in regular farmland or all over the place," said study co-author Richard Fox, an ecologist at Butterfly Conservation, told the Associated Press.

Over the past 25 years, the butterfly has expanded its taste to include geraniums, a plant that does well in warm weather.

"We don't think this is a mutation," Hill told the New York Times, "and we know that the butterfly is able to use this geranium plant as a new host plant in temperatures where it is nice and warm."

As temperatures increased, geraniums flourished and allowed the brown argus to do the same.

"Warm summers have benefited the brown argus butterfly by allowing it to become less picky," Pateman told the BBC. "The Geranium species used are very widespread in the landscape and so this has enabled the rapid expansion of the butterfly."

Although the brown argus has benefitted in some aspects from global warming, the rising temperatures are also threatening their habitat, Hill told the New York Times. Hill also said the drawbacks from global warming far "outweighs any potential benefits from climate change."

The journal Science published the study on Friday.

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