Climate change is causing huge upheavals in the distribution of many animal species, and mountaintop populations are particularly vulnerable in this respect. They usually respond to rising temperatures with altitudinal shifts, which result in an obvious shrinkage of territory and are by definition limited by the height of the mountain range.
The Sistri et al. paper on Erebia pandrose.
The Apennines are a relatively narrow and low mountain range in southern Europe, which is home to many isolated populations of mountain species. The butterfly Erebia pandrose was last recorded in the Apennines in 1977, on the summit of a single massif (Monti della Laga).
Research by Sistri et al. published in "Insect Conservation and Diversity" under the title "The isolated Erebia pandrose Apennine population is genetically unique and endangered by climate change" has confirmed the presence of a small isolated population of Erebia pandrose in the Apennines, at a distance of over 400 km from locations where other known populations have been reported in the past. In fact, the Apennine population represents a unique endemic strain.
By examining the DNA of this species, the researchers estimated a potential decline in the Alps and Apennines due to future climate change. This species has moved up in altitude by more than 22 m per year since 1995.
The models of species distribution suggest that these populations will experience a general loss of climatic fitness, which is projected to lead to the extinction of the Apennine population in a few decades. The disappearance of the Apennine population of Erebia pandrose could therefore represent the loss of genetic characteristics unique to the species.
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