On Tuesday afternoon I attended the launch of the latest ‘State of the UK’s Butterflies report‘ – an excellent report authored by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. This is the fourth in a series of reports which charts the status of our butterflies every few years.
More species are declining than increasing but some are increasing because of the impacts of a warming climate (although there are signs that this boost to these species may be waning as some climate impacts turn overall negative in effect).
Chris Packham, Butterfly Conservation’s Vice-President, was at the launch and described the decline in butterfly species as ‘shameful’.
There are some very good examples of conservation success – we can make a difference if we do the right things. The successes tend to be the well-studied, fairly localised species where habitat management has been adjusted over a reasonably large scale. I noticed from the presentations that a part of one of my regular journeys through Northants on the A43, between Towcester and Brackley, bisects woods where Wood Whites have soared in numbers thanks to tweaks in woodland management. And they were tweaks, no-one could claim that the whole shape of the British economy, or even the economy of Britain’s woodlands, or even the economy of Northamptonshire’s woodlands, needs to be wrecked to allow a recovery in our Wood White populations. As I check my speed for the speed cameras on this stretch of road I will, from now on, picture the conservation success story that has played out in the woods on either side of the dual carriageway.
But overall, and in the wider countryside as a whole, butterfly populations are in decline and that’s for a range of reasons. When did you last see a Wall Brown butterfly? As a child I saw them in our garden in north Somerset, nowadays I rarely see them at all. That’s a common experience, or loss of experience. I miss Wall Browns. The current generation of children don’t have many memories of Wall Browns. If they are to be delighted by their recovery in future years we had better invest in our butterflies now.
Defra was invited to the launch of the report but did not attend.
The standard of the report is very high – the message it sends is quite gloomy – the response to its message is absent.
See here for media coverage: