Butterflies fight losing battle with climate change
Butterfiles are in decline in the UK because they are being forced into small pockets of the countryside, as climate change is drastically affecting their habitat.
Dr Rob Wilson, an ecologist at Exeter University, will tell a conference on climate change there this month that the break-up of suitable butterfly habitats by urban spread and agriculture is driving the "staggering" declines. He will say that while rising temperatures should in theory benefit butterflies by allowing species living in the South to spread further north, in reality Britain has seen some of the greatest losses of butterfly diversity in Europe.
They cannot fly the long distances between suitable habitats so they are forced to stay in one place.
In the past 35 years, species such as the High Brown Fritillary and Grizzled Skipper have suffered declines in their distribution of 79 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively.
Speaking before the conference, Dr Wilson warned that butterflies could be an early indicator of the fate in store for other insects, animals and plants as the climate warms. British temperatures have risen by between 1C and 1.5C since the 1970s.
In the past 100 years, five butterfly species have become extinct, while the remaining 54 species are in rapid decline.
Conservationists fear that without them, many ecosystems will collapse. Sir David Attenborough, the BBC wildlife broadcaster and president of the charity Butterfly Conservation, recently spoke of impending "environmental catastrophe" unless immediate action was taken to save Britain’s butterflies from extinction.