Bigger is better for threatened butterflies

RESTORING and joining up habitat will prevent threat-ened butterflies and moths from becoming extinct, a groundbreaking report has revealed.

For the first time, the report by Butterfly Conservation provides real evidence that projects aimed at conserving butterflies and moths at a landscape-scale have enabled threatened species to fight back after decades of decline. It works by improving and connecting land for wildlife by the co-ordinated conser-vation management of sites for a range of species.

The report also shows that measures to conserve rare butterflies and moths have helped other species as well as the habitats in which they live. Butterflies are the most threatened wildlife group – more than three-quarters of Britain’s 57 resident species are declining and over 40 per cent are listed as priorities. More than 80 moth species are also at risk. Most threatened species are now confined to small patches of habitat that have been left isolated in intens-ively managed countryside. For over a decade, Butterfly Conservation has adopted a landscape-scale approach to conserving these areas in order to manage habitats more effectively. The combination of targeted management and restoration has allowed many species to flourish in each of the 12 areas covered. Examples include the UK’s most rapidly declining but-terfly – the High Brown Fritillary in Morecambe Bay and parts of neighbouring Cumbria.

Here, more than 60 hectares of habitat on 23 sites have been restored, enabling the butterfly to flourish.

The report lends weight to a recent Government paper by ecologist Professor Sir John Lawton which states that we must make habitats bigger and more connected if species are to survive.

Sir John said: “The But-terfly Conservation report shows what can be achieved through a highly focused species-led approach. “Very simply ‘more, bigger, better and joined up’ works need to be rolled out far more widely. Recreating, restoring and joining up habitats benefits not just butterflies and moths, but a host of other creatures with which they share habitat.”

Dr Sam Ellis, Butterfly Con-servation head of regions, said: “Our report shows that landscape-scale conservation works for our threatened species. We now need to raise the funds to implement projects across the UK to halt the dramatic decline of butterflies and moths.”

Butterfly Conservation is calling on Government to provide more funding for initiatives and targeted species conservation in order to reverse the decline in biodiversity and achieve the its 2020 targets on bio-diversity.

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