There is growing acknowledgement of the importance of biodiversity in the wider countryside. Butterfly populations are an excellent way to monitor the health of an environment.
UK butterfly monitoring in the past has concentrated on nature reserves and butterfly-rich places. This has led to a lack of monitoring in vast areas of the wider countryside. These areas include farmland, plantation woodland, uplands and urban green spaces.
The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, run by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, has in recent years developed the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) method to gauge the changing abundance of widespread species in the general countryside. 70% of the UK’s land is in agricultural use. It is essential that butterflies in these areas are monitored to gauge the health our countryside.
Over 600 dedicated volunteers surveyed more than 760 squares as part of the nationwide WCBS launch in 2009. The WCBS benefits from an excellent partnership with the British Trust for Ornithology Breeding Bird Surveyrecorders.
The WCBS involves volunteers carrying out surveys in 1km grid squares which have been picked out randomly and so are representative of the whole country. Participants are asked to record all the butterflies at their site on at least two occasions during the summer. Detailed instructions of what is a simple survey technique are given out to all participants.
The 60 or so random squares allocated to the branch are shown on the map. There is a fair sprinkling across the branch of squares with green markers indicating that they need someone to record that square. If you click on a site marker you will see further details of the site, including a link to a web page showing its location on an OS Map.
This survey is already giving interesting results. Of course, as with all survey work, data from a long period will be needed before firm conclusions can be reached on trends in abundance, so if you would like to take part in this ground-breaking survey, then please contact Richard Buckland (tel: 0131 332 0615 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Visit the UKBMS website for more details and copies of instructions and recording forms.