Phenological sensitivity and seasonal variability explain climate-driven trends in Mediterranean butterflies

Pau Colom*, Miquel Ninyerola, Xavier Pons, Anna Traveset, Constantí Stefanescu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Although climate-driven phenological shifts have been documented for many taxa across the globe, we still lack knowledge of the consequences they have on populations. Here, we used a comprehensive database comprising 553 populations of 51 species of north-western Mediterranean butterflies to investigate the relationship between phenology and population trends in a 26-year period. Phenological trends and sensitivity to climate, along with various species traits, were used to predict abundance trends. Key ecological traits accounted for a general decline of more than half of the species, most of which, surprisingly, did not change their phenology under a climate warming scenario. However, this was related to the regional cooling in a short temporal window that includes late winter and early spring, during which most species concentrate their development. Finally, we demonstrate that phenological sensitivity - but not phenological trends - predicted population trends, and argue that species that best adjust their phenology to inter-annual climate variability are more likely to maintain a synchronization with trophic resources, thereby mitigating possible negative effects of climate change. Our results reflect the importance of assessing not only species' trends over time but also species' abilities to respond to a changing climate based on their sensitivity to temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220251
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1973
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2022


  • global warming
  • host plant specialization
  • insect phenology
  • long-term trends
  • population trends
  • species' life-history traits


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