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Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire - Branch Logo featuring the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.Butterfly Conservation.

Rare butterflies show signs of recovery

by Natalie Ngo (Administration Officer - Publicity)
Date: 16/05/2011

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New data shows that some of Britain's most threatened butterflies showed encouraging signs of recovery last year.

The charity Butterfly Conservation says that while overall butterfly numbers continue to decline, the indications are that recent conservation efforts have had a positive effect on some of the most threatened species.

Last year's weather also played a vital role in boosting some butterfly species.

The biggest winner of 2010 was the Wood White which bounced back with a six-fold increase over 2009, having suffered a massive 96 per cent decline since the 1970s.

Another winner was the Marsh Fritillary which more than doubled its numbers in 2010 compared with 2009, confirming that its overall trend is now upwards, reversing a serious long-term decline that has been going on since the 1950s.

It is not all good news. The data shows it was the worst year on record for two species. One of the UK's commonest butterflies, the Meadow Brown had its worst ever year, with numbers down by a fifth compared with 2009. One of our rarest butterflies the Lulworth Skipper also had its worst year - its numbers are down a frightening 93 per cent over the last decade. The reasons for these losses are still not fully understood and are the subject of current research.

It was also a bad year for migrants - numbers dropped by 90 per cent and there was no repeat of the Painted Lady immigration, which was a spectacular feature of the 2009 season.

The new data comes from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, the largest and longest running scheme of its kind anywhere in the world. It is run by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and involves thousands of volunteers across the UK.

The data shows that three-quarters of threatened butterfly species increased from 2009 levels although most remain in long-term decline.

Over three-quarters of the UK's butterflies have declined over recent decades and almost half are seriously threatened, so the results for threatened species come as welcome news.

Dr Tom Brereton, Head of Monitoring at Butterfly Conservation said: Over the last decade, Butterfly Conservation has developed a large number of landscape scale projects with a wide range of statutory and non-statutory partners to improve and restore habitats for threatened butterflies. This has particularly helped the Marsh Fritillary and more recently the Wood White and some other species too are beginning to recover. It shows these projects are working, given time. This is extremely welcome news and shows that we can reverse butterfly losses if the effort can be maintained. There's no doubt that other wildlife is benefitting too.

Dr Marc Botham, Butterfly Ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said: The continued dedication of thousands of volunteers enables us to analyse both short and long-term trends in the abundance of butterflies. Butterflies are highly sensitive to how our countryside is changing and the UKBMS data has revealed how butterflies are already being impacted by climate change as well as whether our conservation measures are working.

Dr Tom Brereton, Head of Monitoring, Butterfly Conservation
Phone: 01929 400 209 (Mon to Fri) or Mobile: 07816 786 173

Lester Cowling, Senior Publicity Officer, Butterfly Conservation
Mobile: 07976 363 546

Dr Marc Botham, Butterfly Ecologist, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Phone: 01491 692 437 (Mon to Fri) Mobile: 07779 599 996

The highly threatened Wood White was the biggest winner of 2010, with a six-fold increase over 2009. (Peter Eeles)

UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is run by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and is funded by Defra, JNCC and a consortium of government agencies. The scheme started in 1976 and collates data from over 1,000 sites around the UK from over 1,500 volunteers who count butterflies every week along a fixed route known as a transect.

The five biggest winners of 2010 were:
Wood White (up 600% since 2009 after major decline)
Marsh Fritillary (up 134% after major decline. Third best year in scheme)
Common Blue (up 146%, with second best ever year in scheme)
Brown Argus (up 85%, with third best year in scheme)
Silver-spotted Skipper (up 78%, with eighth best year in scheme)

The five biggest losers of 2010 were:
Lulworth Skipper (down 40%, worst year in scheme after major decline. Species confined to south coast of Dorset)
Meadow Brown (down 20%, worst year in scheme for one of our commonest species)
Essex Skipper (down 33%, second worst year in scheme)
Small Skipper (down 17%, third worst year in scheme)
Wall (down 20%, third worst year in scheme after major decline)

Butterfly Conservation is the largest insect conservation charity in Europe with nearly 16,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes on over 120 threatened species of butterfly and moth and manages over 30 nature reserves.

Further information

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, employs more than 450 people at four major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment. You can follow the latest developments in CEH research via Twitter and our rss news feed

If you have any questions or require more information about this press release, please contact Natalie Ngo (Administration Officer - Publicity) 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.

Further information at: