For the first time, the report by Butterfly Conservation provides concrete evidence that projects aimed at conserving butterflies and moths at a landscape-scale have enabled threatened species to flourish after decades of decline.
A landscape-scale approach works by improving and connecting land for wildlife by the coordinated conservation management of numerous sites for a range of species across a large natural area.
The report, Landscape-scale conservation for butterflies and moths: lessons from the UK, also shows that measures to conserve rare butterflies and moths have helped other threatened species as well as the habitats in which they live.
Butterflies are the most threatened wildlife group; more than three-quarters of Britain’s 57 resident species are declining and over 40% are listed as Priorities for Conservation. More than 80 moth species are also at risk.
Most threatened species are now confined to small patches of habitat that have been left isolated within the modern intensively managed countryside.
For over a decade, Butterfly Conservation has adopted a landscape-scale approach to conserving these areas in order to manage existing habitats more effectively and link them with newly restored habitats.
This combination of targeted management and restoration has allowed many species to flourish in each of the 12 landscapes covered in the report.
Examples include the Small Blue in Warwickshire which has increased from a low of three to eight colonies in just three years.
The numbers of Marsh Fritillary in one Dartmoor valley have increased by more than 1000% in five years and the number of Pearl-bordered Fritillary colonies in the Wyre Forest in the West Midlands doubled in ten years.
The report lends weight to the recent Government paper by ecologist Professor Sir John Lawton Making Space for Nature which states that we must make habitats far bigger, better managed and more connected if species are to survive in the future.
Sir John said: “The Butterfly Conservation report shows what can be achieved through a highly focused species-led approach.
“Very simply ‘more, bigger, better and joined’ works, and needs to be rolled out far more widely. Recreating, restoring and joining up habitats benefits not just butterflies and moths, but a host of other creatures with which they share their habitat.”
Dr Sam Ellis, Butterfly Conservation Head of Regions, said: “Our report shows that landscape-scale conservation works for our most threatened species. We now need to raise the funds to implement landscape projects across the UK to halt the dramatic decline of butterflies and moths.”
Butterfly Conservation is calling on government to provide more funding for landscape-scale initiatives and targeted species conservation in order to reverse the decline in biodiversity and achieve the government’s 2020 targets on biodiversity.