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Insects and recent climate change

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Insects have diversified through more than 450 million y of Earth's changeable climate, yet rapidly shifting patterns of temperature and precipitation now pose novel challenges as they combine with decades of other anthropogenic stressors including the conversion and degradation of land. Here, we consider how insects are responding to recent climate change while summarizing the literature on long-term monitoring of insect populations in the context of climatic fluctuations. Results to date suggest that climate change impacts on insects have the potential to be considerable, even when compared with changes in land use. The importance of climate is illustrated with a case study from the butterflies of Northern California, where we find that population declines have been severe in high-elevation areas removed from the most immediate effects of habitat loss. These results shed light on the complexity of montane-adapted insects responding to changing abiotic conditions. We also consider methodological issues that would improve syntheses of results across long-term insect datasets and highlight directions for future empirical work.

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