LGVN Animals - Butterflies
OF BUTTERFLY SPECIES IN STEEP DECLINE
The destruction of wildlife habitats is now so severe that most
British butterflies have been unable to capitalise on warmer weather.
in the journal Nature shows that three-quarters of the butterfly
species that might have expanded northwards due to global warming
have declined instead. Scientists from Butterfly Conservation, the
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Universities of Leeds and Durham
have shown that the negative effects of habitat loss have greatly
outweighed the benefits of warmer summers.
less mobile butterfly species have suffered particularly badly (89%
have declined compared to only 50% of more mobile, generalist species).
is the first scientific analysis of 1.6 million butterfly sightings
by 10,000 amateur naturalists and members of the public between
1995 and 1999 (summarised in The
Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland ).
Thomas from Leeds University who co-ordinated the university research
said "Most species of butterflies that reach the northern edge of
their geographic ranges in Britain have declined over the last 30
years even though the climate has warmed. This is surprising because
climate warming is expected to increase the range of habitats these
species can inhabit. Our computer models show that climatically
suitable areas are available for colonisation, but most species
(especially sedentary specialists) have failed to exploit them either
because they no longer contain suitable breeding habitats, or because
breeding habitats are out of reach."
Dr. Martin Warren,
Director of Conservation at Butterfly
Conservation and lead author of the Nature article, commented
on the implications of the research. "Habitat degradation and climate
change are opposing forces for butterflies in Britain, but our results
show that habitat problems are more serious for many species. In
fact, the severe declines of our specialist butterflies might have
been even worse if it had not been for warmer summers in recent
years. Unless we take action, the end result will be extinction,
leaving our wildlife poorer and dominated by a few mobile, generalist
butterflies. Wildlife habitats have become too fragmented by intensive
agriculture, forestry and urban development. The protection and
management of large-scale networks of habitat are required to minimise
this risk and to maximise the ability of species to track the shifting
Dr Jeremy Thomas,
Head of biodiversity and conservation research at the Centre for
Ecology and Hydrology, said "The massive and long-term data sets
describing UK butterfly distributions and population changes are
uniquely comprehensive. The UK is the only nation in the world where
we can detect these changes to wildlife that are likely to be occurring
in many other developed countries."
town gardening trends also fail to lend much thought towards butterfly
conservation. Lack of flowery shrubs and plants which can attract
butterflies are an increasingly rare site, replaced instead by environmentally
unfriendly designer layouts with no natural ground coverage or undisturbed
the wildlife files at VeggieGlobal) The decline in butterfly
population parallels the general decline of British Wildlife and
the wildlife files at veggieglobal) Help to regenerate butterfly
habitats in your own back yard.
Conservation Web Site
Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland
Jim Asher (Editor), Martin Warren (Editor), Richard
Fox (Editor), Paul Harding (Editor), Gail Jeffcoate (Editor), Stephen
and VeggieGlobal News Copyright.
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