More than three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies have declined in the last 40 years with some common species suffering significant slumps, a major scientific study has revealed.
The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015 report found that 76% of the UK’s resident and regular migrant butterflies declined in abundance, occurrence or both over the last four decades.
The report, by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), found that a number of widespread species such as the Wall, Essex Skipper and Small Heath now rank amongst the most severely declining butterflies in the UK.
The findings also reveal that intensive conservation efforts have started to turn around the fortunes of some of the UK’s most endangered butterflies.
During the last 10 years the numbers of the threatened Duke of Burgundy have increased by 67% and the Pearl-bordered Fritillary has experienced a 45% rise in abundance. Dingy Skipper and Silver-studded Blue have shown 21% and 19% increases in occurrence respectively and even the UK’s most endangered butterfly, the High Brown Fritillary, has been relatively stable in the last decade.
But despite breakthroughs with some threatened butterflies the report revealed that other species continue to struggle. The long-term decline of the Wood White, White Admiral and Marsh Fritillary show few signs of stopping. The report found that some once common and widespread species have become a cause for concern. The Wall, once a common farmland butterfly across southern Britain, has suffered a 36% fall in occurrence and 25% drop in abundance since 2005, continuing a longer trend of decline.
One of our most abundant species, the Gatekeeper, has experienced a 44% decline in abundance in the last decade and numbers of Small Skipper have been below average in every year of the 21st century.
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