Monday, 12 December 2011

Butterflies in Decline

A new report on the state of the UK's butterflies over the last decade paints a rather depressing picture. The report, compiled by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, has some disturbing headline figures. Over a 10 year period;
  • the population levels of 72% of UK species declined 
  • the distributions of 54% of species declined
These findings relate to a 10 year period within the broader period 1995-2009 (i.e. they are comparing data gathered during 1995-1999 with data gathered during 2005-2009). 

Common Blue

Aside from the headline figures, what is particularly worrying is the finding that some of our most common species are in decline, such as the Common Blue (above), the Small Skipper (below) and the Large Skipper. These are species which appeared relatively well suited to living alongside human activity and were not considered to be particularly sensitive species. 

Small Skipper

It's not all doom and gloom though. Both the population and distribution of species such as the Comma, Speckled Wood and the Ringlet (below) are increasing.  The distribution of the Peacock has also increased, though its population levels appear to have declined.


Numbers of the Large Blue, the Dark Green Fritillary and Silver Wash Fritillary have also increased, albeit from a very low base in the case of the Large Blue. These improvements reflect the hard work of organisations such as Butterfly Conservation.

Nevertheless, the overall picture is a depressing one. There is no getting away from the fact that the majority of our butterflies have declined in both numbers and range over a 10 year period - the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. Conservation work is obviously continuing as are various agri-environmental schemes but it would seem the best we can hope for is to halt, or even merely slow, the decline. 

The full report can be found here:

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