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Red alert for Britain's butterflies

by Catrin Hollingum (Publicity Officer)
Date: 12/11/2010

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A new Red List of British butterflies outlines 23 species which are already extinct here or whose numbers have dropped to such low levels that they are vulnerable to extinction.

The High Brown Fritillary is one of two species rated as Critically Endangered. This species has been the fastest declining of all British butterflies seeing numbers drop by 85 per cent over a 10-year period.

The research confirms that butterflies are not only a highly threatened group in Britain but that they are faring worse than dragonflies, birds and plants. Twenty three species - 37 per cent of all our native butterflies - are considered to be regionally extinct or threatened. This compares to 21 per cent of dragonflies, 29 per cent of birds and 20 per cent of plants. A further 11 butterfly species are classified as 'near threatened' in the new Red List, leaving fewer than half (45 per cent) of Britain's butterflies considered to be safe at present.

The figures are the result of a major re-assessment of the state of British butterfly populations using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List approach. It is based on data collected by thousands of volunteer recorders coordinated by the charity Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The results are consistent with previous evidence of butterfly trends and confirm that butterflies are a highly threatened group in Britain.

'The new Red List shows that the number of butterflies in need of our help has increased dramatically in the past 10 years,' says Richard Fox from Butterfly Conservation, who is lead author of the study. 'We have already seen conservationists bring the Large Blue butterfly back from extinction but there is so much more we need to do to secure the future for our fastest declining species. They are our heritage.'

Notes to editors

The Red List was published recently in the scientific journal Insect Conservation and Diversity as Fox, R., Warren, M.S., Brereton, T.M., Roy, D.B. and Robinson, A. (2010). A new red list of British butterflies. Insect Conservation and Diversity.

This is the first time that British butterflies have been classified using new global standards for Red Lists that were agreed in 2001. Compared to the first Red List, published in 1987, the number of butterflies classed as threatened or near threatened in Britain has tripled (from 11 to 34 species).

The new Red List of British butterflies was produced by scientists working for Butterfly Conservation, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Threatened British butterflies defined by the new Red List (in order of threat category and then taxonomic order).

Black-veined White - Aporia crataegi - Regionally Extinct
Large Copper - Lycaena dispar - Regionally Extinct
Mazarine Blue - Polyommatus semi-argus - Regionally Extinct
Large Tortoiseshell - Nymphalis polychloros - Regionally Extinct
Large Blue - Glaucopsyche arion - Critically Endangered
High Brown Fritillary - Argynnis adippe - Critically Endangered
Chequered Skipper - Carterocephalus palaemon - Endangered
Wood White - Leptidea sinapis - Endangered
White-letter Hairstreak - Satyrium w-album - Endangered
Black Hairstreak - Satyrium pruni - Endangered
Duke of Burgundy - Hamearis lucina - Endangered
Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria euphrosyne - Endangered
Glanville Fritillary - Melitaea cinxia - Endangered
Heath Fritillary - Melitaea athalia - Endangered
Dingy Skipper - Erynnis tages - Vulnerable
Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus malvae - Vulnerable
Brown Hairstreak - Thecla betulae - Vulnerable
Silver-studded Blue - Plebeius argus - Vulnerable
Northern Brown Argus - Plebeius artaxerxes - Vulnerable
White Admiral - Limenitis camilla - Vulnerable
Marsh Fritillary - Euphydryas aurinia - Vulnerable
Grayling - Hipparchia semele - Vulnerable
Large Heath - Coenonympha tullia - Vulnerable

If you have any questions or require more information about this press release, please contact Catrin Hollingum (Publicity Officer) by email.

About Our Press Releases

Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire regularly issue press releases on issues in relation to butterfly and moth conservation in the Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull area alongside occasional press releases covering national stories from Butterfly Conservation's head office.

If you require further information about a specific press release, please contact the specific press release author.

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Notes For Editors
Butterfly Conservation is the largest conservation charity of its type in Europe with over 13,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes on over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth, organises national butterfly recording and monitoring schemes, and manages over 30 nature reserves.

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