Under climate change many species may need to shift polewards to track suitable bioclimatic conditions. This movement is likely to be impeded by intensively modified landscapes, but little is known in practice about how species undergo range expansion in these conditions. Using biological record data, this paper explores the occurrence of five butterfly species undertaking range expansion in the UK through an urbanised landscape to better understand the ‘pathways’ or landscape features used to expand their distributions. The findings demonstrate that the two most adaptable species were able to navigate well through the urban matrix. Significantly, the remaining three species used more rural pathways, with two using stepping stones of habitat patches and landscape corridors and the final, most specialised species using near-connected chains of woodland habitat. These findings emphasise the importance of retaining corridors of open land around hostile matrices and in this instance, a planning designation ‘Green Belt’ proved to be particularly effective in providing broad pathways of open land for range expansion through a heavily urbanised landscape.
- Species range expansion, urban landscape, connectivity, climate change, biodiversity