Climate change is leading to declines in hundreds of butterfly species across the American West, according to research in 11 states. Researchers found decreasing populations among both common and rare species, as well as widespread and local species. That includes the well-known monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), which has seen a loss of about 970 million butterflies since 1990, as well as less-known species, such as the common cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) and the imperiled Edith’s checkerspot (Euphydryas editha). The research is based on observations by professionals and amateurs since the 1970s.
The study was published in Science.
“The influence of climate change is driving those declines, which makes sense because they’re so widespread,” co-author Matt Forister, a biology professor at the University of Nevada at Reno, told the Washington Post. “It has to be something geographically pervasive.”