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Species with more volatile population dynamics are differentially impacted by weather.


Climatic variation has been invoked as an explanation of population dynamics for a variety of taxa. Much work investigating the link between climatic forcings and population fluctuation uses single-taxon case studies. Here, we conduct comparative analyses of a multi-decadal dataset describing population dynamics of 50 co-occurring butterfly species at 10 sites in Northern California. Specifically, we explore the potential commonality of response to weather among species that encompass a gradient of population dynamics via a hierarchical Bayesian modelling framework. Results of this analysis demonstrate that certain weather conditions impact volatile, or irruptive, species differently as compared with relatively stable species. Notably, precipitation-related variables, including indices of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, have a more pronounced impact on the most volatile species. We hypothesize that these variables influence vegetation resource availability, and thus indirectly influence population dynamics of volatile taxa. As one of the first studies to show a common influence of weather among taxa with similar population dynamics, the results presented here suggest new lines of research in the field of biotic-abiotic interactions.

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