30/11/2011 09:39 GMT

British Butterflies Forced To Head North As Temperatures Rise

British butterflies are heading north as global temperatures rise, new research suggests.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Ecology, reveals that climate change is causing certain species to move and adapt to a range of new habitats.

The study, led by academics at the universities of Bristol and Sheffield, aimed to understand the role of evolution in helping a species to successfully track ongoing climate change.

With temperatures rising, many species are moving further north in the UK but this may mean crossing a landscape with increasingly less of their preferred habitat, academics said.

Evolutionary change in the ability to use geographically widespread habitats or increased ability to move longer distances can help species to track the warming climate and move northwards.

The Brown Argus butterfly is successfully expanding its distribution northwards in the UK and uses a range of distinct habitats.

Using genetic techniques to detect evolutionary change, the researchers were able to show that the colonisation of new sites further north by the Brown Argus had involved significant adaptation during or following colonisation.

Researcher James Buckley said: "These findings are important as understanding the likelihood and speed of such adaptive change is important in determining the rate of species extinction with ongoing climate change."