A new database that holds a wealth of information on all the butterflies and larger moths found in Great Britain and Ireland has been published, enabling researchers and conservationists to have ecological information about butterflies and macro-moths in the same place for the first time.
Much research has been conducted using traits to characterise patterns of population change of to explain and predict how butterflies and moths will respond to environmental change. Research to date has included the response to climate change, habitat fragmentation and artificial light at night.
Butterfly Conservation and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have worked together on the database, which has collated information that previously existed in a wide range of sources such as field guides, books and journals. Until now, most of this information wasn't available in a single location nor in a digital format. The new database has brought this information into one usable, digital resource. This involved many months of inputting data from books into spreadsheets, categorising data, and condensing the data into a suitable format for use in data analysis software such as R.
The database focuses on traits-based information for butterflies and moths. A trait is a characteristic of the species such as a forewing length or foodplants used by the caterpillar. The new database currently consists of a spreadsheet with 968 species of butterfly and larger moth listed, and the known ecological information for each of them included. This includes data such as distribution and abundance trends, body measurements, life-cycle timings, life-history traits for various life-cycle stages and habitats used. Phil Sterling, Barry Henwood and Bloomsbury Publishing have also kindly allowed data from their field guide to caterpillar identification to be included, which means the database contains important information regarding species' host plant use and speciality, making it possible to quickly discover answers to questions such as 'how many species feed on oaks?'.
The database is available through the Environmental Information Data Centre website, operated by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and will be updated annually in the spring as new population trends and ecological information becomes available. The dataset is titled 'Traits data for the butterflies and macro-moths of Great Britain and Ireland', available at the DOI below.