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© 2020 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology The ecological impacts of extreme climatic events on population dynamics and community composition are profound and predominantly negative. Using extensive data of an ecological model system, we tested whether predictions from ecological models remain robust when environmental conditions are outside the bounds of observation. We observed a 10-fold demographic decline of the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) metapopulation on the Åland islands, Finland in the summer of 2018 and used climatic and satellite data to demonstrate that this year was an anomaly with low climatic water balance values and low vegetation productivity indices across Åland. Population growth rates were strongly associated with spatiotemporal variation in climatic water balance. Covariates shown previously to affect the extinction probability of local populations in this metapopulation were less informative when populations were exposed to severe drought during the summer months. Our results highlight the unpredictable responses of natural populations to extreme climatic events.

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Conservation Biology

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