The majority of Finnish moth species fly weeks earlier in warm vs. cool years, but thermal sensitivity varies among populations. In particular, the more poleward community of moths is less physiologically responsive to warming, which partly buffers these systems from effects of more rapid warming in higher latitudes.
This was the result of a collaborative study carried out by the University of Eastern Finland, the Finnish Environment Institute, Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and Dartmouth College. The study was just published in Global Change Biology.
Climate warming is influencing natural systems by altering the annual timing of biological events. Earlier studies have shown that the most important physiological mechanisms controlling insect phenology are temperature, photoperiod or combination of both. The researchers compared the fit of competing models of physiological controls on flight phenology to 334 moth species and found that in most species the timing of flight was strongly controlled by temperatures.
The study was based on 20 years of data of the nation-wide Finnish Moth Monitoring Scheme Nocturna, coordinated by the Finnish environmental administration. The scheme, which monitors populations of night-active moths in over 40 sites in forested habitats across the country, was launched in 1993, and more than 6 million moth individuals have been identified by volunteer observers and stored in a database. The project is rather unique world-wide, as schemes monitoring night-active insects that correspond in spatial coverage and continuation exist in only two other countries.
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