The UK has lists of species and habitats that are conservation priorities. They highlight species most under threat because of their rarity and/or rate of decline. Butterfly Conservation has been given the role in helping save listed butterflies and moths.

How the lists came about

The first lists of Priority Species and Habitats were published by Government in 1995 as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP).

They included over 300 species of which 11 were butterflies and 53 were moths. Butterfly Conservation was appointed Lead Partner for the conservation of all but one of these species. Since then we have instigated the Threatened Butterflies and Moths Projects as well as Regional Action Plans, involving staff Butterfly conservation staff throughout the UK and thousands of volunteers.

Increased knowledge of the British countryside led to a revision of the lists by a consortium of Government, NGO representatives and volunteers. The updated list of priorities was published in 2007. It includes over 24 butterflies and over 150 moths.

The review saw an increase in the overall number of priority habitats from 45 to 65 and in priority species from 577 to 1149.

Butterfly Conservation contributed significant new data for this review. The huge datasets gathered by our army of volunteers enabled us to demonstrate the plight of butterflies and moths and make a strong case for listing.  As a result the number of butterflies and moths in the list has risen to 24 and 81 respectively. A further 71 moths are listed as requiring urgent research.

Species criteria

Species were assessed according to four criteria:

  1. Threatened internationally
  2. International responsibility and a 25% decline in the UK
  3. More than 50% decline in the UK
  4. Other important factor(s), such as the species is declining and is a good ‘indicator’ or ‘flagship’ that highlights a conservation issue.

Sadly, most of the species of butterfly and moth put forward met the third decline criteria.

It is possible a group of ‘widespread but rapidly declining’ species may be included in a single, research-focused plan. The group includes the 71 moths identified in the State of Britain’s Larger Moths report as having suffered huge declines in abundance over the last 35 years for mainly unknown reasons. It also includes two widespread butterfly species, the Wall and Small Heath, that have also experienced serious decline.

Butterfly Conservation is already making significant progress on the conservation of many listed species through our projects that embrace entire landscapes. Programmes are being evolved and regional objectives reviewed for species and habitats listed for the first time in 2007.

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