Butterflies in serious decline in Northern Ireland, says report

Butterfly wall

There is concern that the Wall butterfly is dying out in Northern Ireland

One of Northern Ireland’s butterflies appears to be on the brink of extinction, while others are struggling, according to a report.

But a species found only in Northern Ireland, the Cryptic Wood White, is doing better.

Scientists have warned that time is running out to halt the decline of butterflies across the UK.

A charity involved in the report, Butterfly Conservation, called for targeted action and more resources.

Butterflies are seen as a barometer for climate change and habitat loss as they react quickly to any change in their ecosystem.

The first State of the UK’s Butterflies report from 2015 showed that 80% of species have been declining in abundance, distribution or both over the past 50 years.

There are 59 species of breeding butterflies in the UK.

‘Severe decline’

Many, though not all, of the species found in Northern Ireland were monitored for the report.

It shows a 17% decrease in abundance and a 10% decrease in butterfly distribution.

There are concerns that the Wall butterfly is dying, with the report saying it was in “precipitous decline”.

Only three sightings of that butterfly, all on the County Down coast, have been reported in five years.

Another butterfly, the Little Heath, has lost 40% of its distribution since 1995.

The Holly Blue butterfly can be seen in Northern Ireland

The Holly Blue butterfly can be seen in Northern Ireland

But there have been improvements in the numbers of certain species.

Due to the availability of suitable habitat, the Dark Green Fritillary, the White-washed Fritillary and the Blue Hob have increased throughout Northern Ireland.

And the Cryptic Wood White showed an improvement in its numbers from previous assessments.

Julie Williams, chief executive of Butterfly Conservation, said the report showed compelling evidence of the decline of nature in the UK.

“We need quick and effective action on this,” she said.

“The decline in butterflies that we have seen in our lifetime is appalling and we cannot stand by and watch the UK’s biodiversity be destroyed.”

Climate change

The report was compiled by Butterfly Conservation, the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology and the British Trust for Ornithology.

Almost 23 million butterfly records have been collected for it, mainly by people taking part in the UK Butterfly Monitoring scheme and the Butterflies for the New Millennium scheme.

Due to the volume of recordings the data can be broken down across the four UK nations.

Only Scotland showed long-term increases, with butterflies in England worst.

The report’s authors say more data is needed to assess trends in some of Northern Ireland’s rarest and most threatened species, which are experiencing greater declines across the UK as a whole.

Leave a comment