Hard on the heels of last week's bad news about the decline of moths in our countryside comes news that butterflies are faring no better.
Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight has released a report from DEFRA which shows that the UK's farmland butterflies have declined by around 30% over the last ten years. The minister said "Butterflies are an iconic species in their own right, and they can be good indicators of the health of the entire ecosystem, so this decline is worrying. The implications for other insects, birds and mammals are concerning. The fact that this overall decline has taken place across the board means that we need to look very carefully at how we can help butterflies throughout the countryside, and particularly on SSSIs. We also need to monitor how well Environmental Stewardship supports butterfly populations - particularly those most at risk."
The research was carried out by around 1000 volunteer recorders under the organisation of Butterfly Conservation
's butterfly monitoring scheme. Trends were calculated for 40 butterfly species across 820 sites, of which 371 were in agri-environment schemes. Dr Tom Brereton, who spearheaded the research for Butterfly Conservation, said "The results of the survey are worrying but we are optimistic about the new [agri-environment] scheme. Real progress has been made in understanding butterfly declines and what to do about them."