Butterflies missing in Europe – 04/04/2006

  • November 23, 2013 at 2:54 pm #1175

    from rocky and bluewillow:

    EU’s butterfly havens are vanishing
    17 March 2006
    From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.


    Vanishing wet grasslands are making a nonsense of the European Union’s plan to halt biodiversity loss by 2010, if the alarming decline in butterflies is anything to go by.

    Since the 1990s, Martin Warren of Butterfly Conservation in the UK and his colleagues in the Netherlands have been gathering information on butterfly distribution in 45 European countries. They have found serious declines in almost every country, with 71 of the total 576 species now classed as threatened.

    Now the team has classified butterfly fortunes by habitat and found that the areas occupied by specialist wetland or forest species shrank by about 15 per cent in the past 25 years. Grassland butterflies have fared even worse, their distribution shrinking by 19 per cent (Journal of Insect Conservation, vol 10, p 189).

    “We were surprised how clear-cut this is,” says Warren. “The butterflies who are restricted to one or two habitats are particularly under threat.” He suspects the rates of population decline are two to five times as high as the drops in distribution.

    One problem is the rapid loss of wet grassland habitats; modern technologies make them easy to drain for agriculture or development. “A lot of fantastic areas of wet meadow and fenland are being destroyed right across Europe,” says Warren. He thinks the European Union’s pledge to halt biodiversity loss by 2010 looks doomed to fail unless governments do far more to accelerate agricultural reform and protect butterflies in conservation sites

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