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Latest butterfly trend statistics released

News Item 2022

Official Statistics for combined trends in butterflies in the UK between 1976 and 2021 were published by Defra on Thursday 13 October 2022, showing how habitat specialist species and species of the wider countryside are faring.

This Defra statistics release covers two measures of annual butterfly population abundance: the first for habitat specialist butterflies (species strongly associated with semi-natural habitats such as chalk downland), and the second for more widespread butterflies found in both semi-natural habitats and the wider countryside in the UK.

The statistics show that since 1976, populations of habitat specialists have declined significantly, though wider countryside species show no significant change. Habitat specialist species, which are vulnerable to semi-natural habitat loss and fragmentation, have not recovered from declines experienced in the late 1970s. These declines were mainly attributed to the knock-on effects of the drought conditions experienced in 1976.

Butterflies are considered to provide a good indication of the broad state of the environment because they respond rapidly to changes in environmental conditions and habitat management, occur in a wide range of habitats, and are representative of many other insects, in that they utilise areas with abundant plant food resources.

Additional technical information on the trends can be found in the technical document.

These statistics contribute to a suite of indicators due to be updated in December this year (UK Biodiversity Indicators).

The statistics are produced from data gathered through the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS), which is organised and funded by Butterfly Conservation, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and JNCC. The UKBMS is indebted to the thousands of dedicated volunteers who contribute data to the scheme.

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