The latest Red List assessment of butterflies, published today, reveals a 26% increase in the number of species threatened with extinction.
The results have led wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation to warn that time is running out to save some of Britain’s best-loved insects.
UK’s threatened butterflies
Scientists from Butterfly Conservation assessed all the butterfly species that have bred regularly in Great Britain against the rigorous criteria of extinction risk set out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
They put together the new Red List, published today in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, using data gathered by volunteers through the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and Butterflies for the New Millennium recording scheme.
Of the 62 species assessed, four are extinct in Britain (black-veined white, large black tortoiseshell, large copper and mazarine blue) with 24 (41% of the remaining species) classed as threatened (eight Endangered, 16 Vulnerable) and a further five (9%) as Near Threatened.
‘Shockingly, half of Britain’s remaining butterfly species are listed as threatened or Near Threatened on the new Red List. Even prior to this new assessment, British butterflies were among the most threatened in Europe, and now the number of threatened species in Britain has increased by five, an increase of more than one-quarter.
‘While some species have become less threatened, and a few have even dropped off the Red List, the overall increase clearly demonstrates that the deterioration of the status of British butterflies continues apace.’
DR RICHARD FOX
Head of science for Butterfly Conservation
Butterflies and climate change
While land-use change remains the most important driver of decline, the impact of climate change on butterflies is also evident in the new Red List.
All four British butterflies with northerly distributions, adapted to cooler or damper climates, are now listed as threatened (the large heath, Scotch argus and northern brown argus) or Near Threatened (the mountain ringlet).