Butterflies found in the north of Novaya Zemlya

Butterflies found in the north of Novaya Zemlya
Butterflies found in the north of Novaya Zemlya

Russian scientists have discovered butterflies on Severny Island in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, which are not typical for this territory. Their migrations can be associated with climate warming. The study is published in the journal Nota Lepidopterologica.

“Butterflies were noticed during the field work by our inspectors Vadim Zakharyin and Oleg Valkov, whose duties include conducting state environmental monitoring - collecting information related to the environment. Our employees managed to visually evaluate and photograph the butterfly. This is the first such case on the territory of the national park: no butterflies have been seen here before, "said Ivan Mizin, one of the authors of the study, deputy director for research at the Russian Arctic National Park.

The butterflies were discovered in July and August 2020 at Cape Zhelaniya, located in the northernmost part of the island of the Northern Novaya Zemlya archipelago. This is practically the northernmost point of the island. Scientists from photographs and visual descriptions identified the butterfly as the black-and-red multiflorum (Nymphalis xanthomelas). It is a boreal forest species that is not typical of the high Arctic. Butterflies cannot fly long distances, so the researchers needed to find out how they ended up so far in the north, where the climate is unfavorable for them.

For this, Russian biologists studied data on such migrations to the high Arctic. For example, something similar happened in 1978 when scientists found butterflies in the Svalbard archipelago. The reason for migration was then the transfer of continental air masses. Scientists have reconstructed the events that led to the landing of butterflies on Cape Desire. They took into account the shortest distances from the cape to the nearest points on the mainland, and to recreate the model of the movement of insects with air currents, they used Internet resources that track the weather.

“We reconstructed the environment the day before the appearance of the butterfly on Cape Zhelaniya. In general, the situation was stable for three to five days. The first meeting in July was associated with a powerful air transport from the territory of the Yamal Peninsula, when a warm air mass was moving at high speed towards Novaya Zemlya from the south. And in August, a warm air mass came from the east, from the Taimyr Peninsula. Thus, the butterfly overcame 580-650 km of the water barrier along with the prevailing air currents,”explained another author of the study, director of the Federal Research Center for the Comprehensive Study of the Arctic named after Academician N.P. Laverov of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Ivan Bolotov.

Scientists note that this species of butterflies is characterized by massive outbreaks of reproduction and migration to the north. Earlier, a large population of polychrome was found near the polar village of Tiksi. This may be due to “population explosions” caused by the warm climatic season.

“This is a unique find that testifies to climate change. The climate is warming - part of the population is migrating to the North. Butterflies are a finely tuned bioindicator of warming in the Arctic, and we clearly see how serious processes are now taking place in wildlife,”summed up Bolotov.

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