Climate Change and Local Host Availability Drive the Northern Range Boundary in the Rapid Expansion of a Specialist Insect Herbivore, Papilio cresphontes

J. Keaton Wilson, Nicolas Casajus, Rebecca A. Hutchinson, Kent P. McFarland, Jeremy T. Kerr, Dominique Berteaux, Maxim Larrivée, Kathleen L. Prudic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Species distributions, abundance, and interactions have always been influenced by human activity and are currently experiencing rapid change. Biodiversity benchmark surveys traditionally require intense human labor inputs to find, identify, and record organisms limiting the rate and impact of scientific enquiry and discovery. Recent emergence and advancement of monitoring technologies have improved biodiversity data collection to a scale and scope previously unimaginable. Community science web platforms, smartphone applications, and technology assisted identification have expedited the speed and enhanced the volume of observational data all while providing open access to these data worldwide. How to integrate and leverage the data into valuable information on how species are changing in space and time requires new best practices in computational and analytical approaches. Here we integrate data from three community science repositories to explore how a specialist herbivore distribution changes in relation to host plant distributions and other environmental factors. We generate a series of temporally explicit species distribution models to generate range predictions for a specialist insect herbivore (Papilio cresphontes) and three predominant host-plant species. We find that this insect species has experienced rapid northern range expansion, likely due to a combination of the range of its larval host plants and climate changes in winter. This case study shows rapid data collection through large scale community science endeavors can be leveraged through thoughtful data integration and transparent analytic pipelines to inform how environmental change impacts where species are and their interactions for a more cost effective method of biodiversity benchmarking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number579230
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
StatePublished - Mar 2 2021


  • benchmarking biodiversity
  • biotic interactions
  • citizen science
  • climate change
  • species distribution models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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