Rothamsted Research

Earlier springtime disrupts insect and bird lives—and it’s worse than expected

Animals’ lives are timed to the seasons, and a new study suggests the earlier arrival of spring brought by climate change could wreak havoc on birds, butterflies, and other insects in the United Kingdom, The Independent reports. Some egg laying is taking place earlier than before, for example, and migratory birds that rely on freshly hatched caterpillars are sometimes failing to find enough to eat when they arrive at their destinations. Scientists had hoped the cool shade of forests might buffer these temperature-driven changes, but the new study of 263 species, reported in Global Change Biology, suggests that between 1960 and 2010, many woodland species, including the buff tip moth (above), have changed their behaviors just as fast as those that live in sunnier grasslands or farmland. The new research also finds that the patterns of change across the United Kingdom are more complex than previously thought, implying that the conservation of imperiled species will be an even greater challenge.

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