Climate change will likely affect species differently depending on many factors. Organisms are adapted to the habitats in which they live; how these organisms are adapted to variation in their environment may determine how sensitive they are to climate change.

Timothy Bonebrake of the University of Hong Kong recently received funding to test this hypothesis in Cameroon – with its extensive latitudinal variation and many diverse ecosystems, the country is the perfect place to explore the role of habitat in structuring climate change vulnerability.

The project, funded by Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council through a General Research Fund grant for 1.1 million HKD (about $140,000 in U.S. dollars), will focus on mycalesine butterflies. It gives Dr. Bonebrake an opportunity to continue his research on climate change and conservation in Central Africa. Rachid Hanna, of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and Oskar Brattstrom, of University of Cambridge, are co-principal investigators and will also lead the research.

Over the past five years, Drs. Bonebrake and Hanna have studied a small brown butterfly, Bicyclus dorothea, with Michel Dongmo, a PhD student at IITA/Congo Basin Institute. They’ve investigated thermal tolerance differences between forest and ecotone populations of the butterfly species. This grant allows them to expand this work to other Bicyclus species, and explore the larger evolutionary context of physiological variation and climate.

The Congo Basin Institute will serve as a primary base for this research, and facilitate applications of the research in conservation and environmental management efforts in the region.