Following close partnership working in the Wyre Forest through a series of projects, the total area occupied by Pearl-bordered Fritillary in the landscape has now increased.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary is one of the fastest declining butterflies in the UK, having suffered a 66% decline in abundance between 1977 and 2004. The Wyre Forest is one of the English strongholds for the butterfly.
Pearl-bordered Fritillary requires abundant violets, usually Common Dog-violet viola riviniana, growing in short, sparse vegetation with abundant leaf litter or dead Bracken. Pearl-bordered Fritillary in the Wyre Forest mainly occurs in woodland clearings created by coppicing or clear-fells but can also occur in other areas of open space such as; deer lawns and disused railway lines with a grassland/Bracken mosaic.
The Wyre Forest consists of 2,634 ha of ancient woodland and is one of the most ecologically diverse in England. In 1997 Pearl-bordered Fritillary was recorded on 41 Wyre Forest sites, by 2002 it was recorded on 32 sites and declines in abundance since 1997 meant 76% of the sites only supported small colonies.
Between 2003 and 2012, through a series of funded projects, Butterfly Conservation worked closely with partner organisations co-ordinating surveys and monitoring as well as providing management advice. The project aimed to conserve Pearl-bordered Fritillary by maintaining and expanding existing breeding habitat throughout the forest and by identifying new sites.
- 41% of occupied sites were managed through clear-fells and coppicing and 22% by ride and track work.
- 29% are areas of permanent open space managed by; Bracken rolling, annual cut and collect programmes, grazing and site enlargement.
- 21 sites were managed by opening up south-facing slopes, improving linkages, liming trials, scalloping and stump removal.
- Since 2002 a Pearl-bordered Fritillary monitoring programme has been set up and includes monitoring by transects and timed counts, monitoring data can help to target management.
For more detailed information about this project and others across the UK please read the full report: Landscape-scale Conservation For Butterflies And Moths: Lessons From The UK.
- Pearl-bordered Fritillary has occupied or continued to occupy at least 68 sites in the Wyre Forest from 2002-11.
- Total number of occupied sites monitored by timed counts increased from 15 in 2002 to 30 in 2011.
- The number of large colonies on sites monitored by timed counts increased from no large colonies from 2002-09, to 11 large colonies in 2011.
- The total area occupied by Pearl-bordered Fritillary increased from 27.07 ha in 2002 to 52.11 ha in 2011.
- Over half of the new colonisations were in habitat adjacent to or within 0.25 km of an existing population.
- The butterfly benefited from a variety of management and is successfully managed in the long-term by maintaining open space.
- Management was found to benefit other Lepidoptera species including; Wood White, Grizzled Skipper, Silver-washed Fritillary and Drab Looper.
- Volunteer efforts were vital and through the project there have been a number of work parties and the Wyre Forest Butterfly Recorder’s Group has been established following butterfly ID courses.
This project demonstrates that Pearl-bordered Fritillary can benefit from a variety of targeted management with open space and ride/track management being just as important as coppicing and clear-fell. Close partnership working (especially with Natural England and the Forestry Commission) has also been important in the successful conservation of Pearl-bordered Fritillary in the Wyre Forest and future management will focus on improving connectivity and providing more long-term sustainable coppice.