Climate change has caused many ecological changes around the world. Altered phenology is among the most commonly observed effects of climate change, and the list of species interactions affected by altered phenology is growing. Although many studies on altered phenology focus on single species or on pairwise species interactions, most ecological communities are comprised of numerous, ecologically similar species within trophic groups. Using a 12-year butterfly monitoring citizen science data set, we aimed to assess the degree to which butterfly communities may be changing over time. Specifically, we wanted to assess the degree to which phenological sensitivities to temperature could affect temporal overlap among species within communities, independent of changes in abundance, species richness, and evenness. We found that warming winter temperatures may be associated with some butterfly species making use of the coldest months of the year to fly as adults, thus changing temporal co-occurrence with other butterfly species. Our results suggest that changing temperatures could cause immediate restructuring of communities without requiring changes in overall abundance or diversity. Such changes could have fitness consequences for individuals within trophic levels by altering competition for resources, as well as indirect effects mediated by species interactions across trophic levels.
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