Why the Future for Butterflies Isn't Looking So Colourful; GO GREEN - How the Change in Our Gardens Is Affecting the Population of Our Favourite Insects

Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), November 17, 2008 | Go to article overview

Why the Future for Butterflies Isn't Looking So Colourful; GO GREEN - How the Change in Our Gardens Is Affecting the Population of Our Favourite Insects


Byline: By Mary Griffin, ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

ONE of the world's most beautiful insects, the butterfly, is struggling to survive in Coventry and Warwickshire.

A new report from Butterfly Conservation shows there are serious declines in butterfly and moth species across the West Midlands region.

More than a third of species have reduced in number over the past 10 years and several species in Coventry and Warwickshire are now in urgent need of conservation.

The most endangered species, the High Brown Fritillary, could become extinct in the region.

What is perhaps more worrying is that once common butterflies that were widespread locally are now seeing their numbers plummet.

Dr Jenny Joy, Butterfly Conservation's senior regional officer and coauthor of the report said: "The butterflies we regarded as common 20 years ago are now rare.

"The High Brown Fritillary has always been a very scarce butterfly in the Midlands but what is even more worrying is the way that once relatively common species such as the Dingy Skipper, Wall Brown and Small Heath have gone into freefall over the past 10 years.

"Warwickshire has a number of specialities like the Small Blue.

"There are a lot of old quarries in Warwickshire which are scrubbing over.

"When you get too many trees in there you lose the habitat the butterflies need."

Other reasons for the decline could include weather conditions and climate change.

But the main problem is that habitats are being lost to development.

"An awful lot of land is lost to development and there have been huge changes to agriculture of the years," explained Dr Joy.

"Even the way we manage our hedgerows has contributed to the loss of butterflies in the wider environment.

"All the time people are asking, 'where have our butterflies gone?' "Butterflies live in a network and in an ideal world you'd have sites close enough together so when one habitat dies out the butterflies can move to the next.

"At the moment we have individual pockets of habitat in Warwickshire rather than networks.

"Isolated colonies are much more likely to die out and that's definitely played a part in the decline in numbers we've seen.

"We are now looking at series of sites and how we can connect them."

Butterflies have their own important place in the ecosystem and, like bees, they are crucial for plant pollination.

Because of their short life cycle - lasting only a season - they are also excellent environmental indicators, indicating how healthy or unhealthy their surroundings are.

Emma Butt at Stratford Butterfly Farm explained: "Butterflies are a fantastic environmental indicator.

"They show us what's happening in our natural environment.

"If something changes it will be noticeable in the butterfly species because they are so short lived and very sensitive.

"Their decline shows us the environment has changed with available habitat of 50 years ago being replaced by building projects and roads, etc. …

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