Science Wire

Threatened butterflies in Europe

The report entitled “Dos and don’ts for butterflies of the Habitats Directive of the European Union” appeared in the form of an “Applied Conservation” paper. Researchers published this paper in the newly launched open-access journal Nature Conservation (press release on the journal launch). It includes detailed accounts of each species of threatened butterflies. Factors include their habitat requirements and food-plants, as well as a list of dos and don’ts in the management of their habitats.

European butterflies are under huge threat and almost 10% are now threatened with extinction. The European grassland indicator shows that the abundance of 17 characteristic butterflies has declined by over 70% in the last 15 years. The main reasons for the declines are habitat loss and incorrect management. Many habitats consist of either abandoned from agriculture, allowing them to become overgrown with scrub. Others are too intensively managed. The new publication is thus a pivotal step to get remaining habitats better managed.

Butterflies indicate sensitive changes in the environment. Populations respond very quickly to habitat change. Management for butterflies will help ensure the survival of a wide range of other insects. Insects form the bedrock of European biodiversity. The guidelines will help ensure that European habitats are managed in a sustainable way that helps the survival of humans as well as wildlife.

The lead author, Chris van Swaay of Dutch Butterfly Conservation said:

Managing habitats in the correct way is the single most important issue affecting the survival of European butterflies. This is the first time that practical information has been brought together to address the issue. We hope the advice will be taken up urgently across Europe to help save these beautiful species from extinction.

Klaus Henle of UFZ (Germany) who established the new journal in collaboration with Lyubomir Penev at Pensoft (Bulgaria) within the European Union’s FP7 project SCALES says

Biodiversity loss is one of the most important topics facing the future of our planet.

He stated that the new open access journal Nature Conservation will make scientific information freely available to help conserve nature and create a healthy world for everyone. The journal aims particularly at enabling better interaction between scientists and practitioners. Its major goal is to support synergistic interactions among scientists, policy-makers, and managers.

Bottom line: Scientists are studying threatened butterflies in Europe.

March 28, 2012
Science Wire

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