Butterfly species vanish from much of the UK: Study
Butterfly Conservation report shows a shocking decline in the distribution of 58 native species since 1976.
A new study reveals that butterfly species have vanished from nearly half of the sites where they once flew in the UK since 1976.
As butterflies disappear from towns, farms, and woods, the distribution of 58 native species has decreased by 42%. Those found primarily in specific habitats, such as wetlands or chalk grassland, have fared much worse, with distribution decreasing by 68%.
Scientists with Butterfly Conservation, who compiled their State of the UK's Butterflies 2022 study from nearly 23 million butterfly records, said a "major step-change" was required to reverse what they called disastrous decreases in insect populations.
The lead author of the report Richard Fox of Butterfly Conservation said, “We’ve been focused on the most threatened butterfly species, which is stopping them [from] going extinct.”
“But there’s a massive challenge revealed by millions of pieces of data in the report, and we need a massive step change in our approach to tackle this and meet the legally binding government target that now exists for halting the decline of wildlife. This report shows we are not halting the decline of wildlife,” he added.
The total figure for the drop in butterfly abundance is a relatively modest 6%, however, this figure is based on data collected from nature reserves and nature-rich areas, masking larger population declines.
The distribution and number of species such as the wood white, grayling, wall, white admiral, and pearl-bordered fritillary have declined precipitously. Between 1976 and 2019, the grayling's distribution and abundance decreased by 92% and 72%, respectively.
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Although concentrated conservation efforts in specific nature reserves have enhanced the number of rare butterflies, they have continued to disappear from other locations, diminishing their range and reducing population resilience as a result.
“It’s going to need bold moves by the government and everyone to take responsibility. Everyone with a garden can help, but the scale of the biodiversity crisis is such that planting a few pollinator-friendly plants is not enough. We need to create habitat where butterflies and other wildlife can live and not just visit for a snack,” Fox stressed.
Julie Williams, the chief executive of Butterfly Conservation, stated, “This report is yet more compelling evidence of nature’s decline in the UK. We are totally dependent on the natural world for food, water and clean air. We need swift and effective action on this. The decline in butterflies we have seen in our own lifetimes is shocking and we can no longer stand by and watch the UK’s biodiversity be destroyed.”
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