05 March 2006

British lepidoptera in trouble

Two disturbing reports have come out recently from across the pond.

Late last month, a report released by the U.K. organization Butterfly Conservation noted that the number of moths in Britain has declined substantially in the last 30-plus years, and that included 62 species which have become extinct. Britain has about 2500 species of moths, and population trends of 337 of the larger species, as monitored by light traps, were examined for the period 1968-2002. Two-thirds had decreased. Who knows what the trends are for the plethora of understudied microlepidoptera. The report, Where have Britain's moths gone?, is available from Butterfly Conservation.

More recently, the results of another study done by Butterfly Conservation highlighted the fact that England's butterflies were increasingly at risk. The study looked at trends for 40 butterfly species across 820 sites, and found an overall 30% decrease over the last ten years. Some species which were adapatable to short or medium turf had increasing trends, while scrub edge and variable turf species -- such as the Small Blue and Duke of Burgundy, weren't so well off. On the right, the Peacock (Inachis io), a common and widespread species.

The study focused on farmland species, since agricultural land covers three-quarters of Britain, and is essential to butterfly conservation there.

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