UK Summary of butterfly population changes for 1976-2016. Summary of species abundance changes in the UK from 2015 to 2016 and long-term (over the entire time series; no. yrs max = 41) and short-term (last 10-years) changes. Significance of trends: * P < 0.05 (significant), ** P < 0.01 (highly significant), ***P < 0.001 (very highly significant). Red text has been used to highlight those species that had their worst year of the series in 2016, and blue text for those species that had their best year of the series in 2016. Graphic: UKBMS

By Ian Johnston Environment
11 April 2017

(The Independent) – Butterflies are “failing to cope” with climate change and the pollution of the British countryside, experts have warned after a disastrous year saw population declines in 40 out of 57 species.

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Survey found it had been the fourth-worst year overall with six species – the heath fritillary, grizzled skipper, wall, grayling, white-letter hairstreak and white admiral – all suffering their most dramatic declines in the 41 years since records began.

Sixteen species saw increases with one remaining about the same, the annual survey found.

But Professor Tom Brereton, head of monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, said the results showed that the insects were in trouble.

“Worryingly, not even the pleasant summer weather of 2016 was enough to help butterflies bounce back from a run of poor years,” he said.

“The results show that butterflies are failing to cope with our changing climate and how we manage the environment.

“As butterflies are regarded as good indicators of environmental health this is hugely concerning for both wildlife and people.”

A mild winter is thought to have been the beginning of their troubles.

Research has suggested this leads to an increase in diseases and predation and a disruption of their over-wintering behaviour.

This was followed by a cold spring, which caused further problems as it can delay their emergence into the winged stage of their life, leading to shorter lifespans.

Some of the declines in population numbers found by the survey before were jaw-dropping. [more]

Disastrous 2016 shows butterflies are 'failing to cope' with climate change

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