Conservation action must be based on sound scientific evidence if it is to be effective. Butterfly Conservation undertakes scientific research in collaboration with universities and other organisations around the world in order to provide such evidence.

Our aim is always to publish such research in peer-reviewed journals and, where possible, to make these papers accessible to the public without charge (indicated by * in the publication list below). Much of our research is based upon data gathered through our world-leading recording and monitoring schemes.


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Science News is a biannual email newsletter exploring the wide range of science that Butterfly Conservation is involved with and explaining how we’re applying this to our conservation projects.


Recent scientific publications:


Burns, F., Eaton, M.A., Hayhow, D.B., Outhwaite, C.L., Al Fulaij, N., August, T.A., Boughey, K.L., Brereton, T., Brown, A., Bullock, D.J., Gent, T., Haysom, K.A., Isaac, N. J.B., Johns, D.G., Macadam, C.R., Mathews, F., Noble, D.G., Powney, G.D., Sims, D.W., Smart, S.M., Stroh, P., Walker, K.J., Webb, J.R., Webb, T.J. & Gregory, R.D. 2018. An assessment of the state of nature in the United Kingdom: A review of findings, methods and impact. Ecological Indicators 94, 226-236.

Franks, S.E., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Atkinson, S., Bell, J.R., Botham, M.S., Brereton, T.M., Harrington, R. & Leech, D.I. 2018. The sensitivity of breeding songbirds to changes in seasonal timing is linked to population change but cannot be directly attributed to the effects of trophic asynchrony on productivityGlobal Change Biology 24, 957-971.

Macgregor, C.J., Kitson, J.J.N., Fox, R., Hahn, C., Lunt, D.H., Pocock, M.J.O. & Evans, D.M. 2018. Construction, validation, and application of nocturnal pollen transport networks in an agro-ecosystem: a comparison using light microscopy and DNA metabarcoding. Ecological Entomology DOI: 10.1111/een.12674

*Mason, S.C., Hill, J.K., Thomas, C.D., Powney, G.D., Fox, R., Brereton, T. & Oliver, T.H. 2018. Population variability in species can be deduced from opportunistic citizen science records: a case study using British butterfliesInsect Conservation and Diversity 11, 131-142. 

Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Baillie, S.R., Boughey K., Bourn, N.A.D, Foppen, R.P.B., Gillings, S., Gregory, R.D., Hunt, T., Jiguet, F., Lehikoinen, A., Musgrove, A.J., Robinson, R.A., Roy, D.B., Siriwardena, G.M., Walker, K.J. & Wilson, J.D. 2018. Overcoming the challenges of public data archiving for citizen science biodiversity recording and monitoring schemesJournal of Applied Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13180.

Suggitt, A.J., Wilson, R.J., Isaac, N.J.B., Beale, C.M., Auffret, A.G., August, T., Bennie, J.J., Crick, H.Q.P., Duffield, S., Fox, R., Hopkins, J.J., Macgregor, N.A., Morecroft, M.D., Walker, K.J. & Maclean, I.M.D. 2018. Extinction risk from climate change is reduced by microclimatic buffering. Nature Climate Change DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0231-9. News story


*De Palma, A., Dennis, R.L.H., Brereton, T., Leather, S.R. & Oliver, T.H. 2017. Large reorganizations in butterfly communities during an extreme weather eventEcography 40, 577-585.

*Dennis, E.B., Morgan, B.J.T., Brereton, T.M., Roy, D.B. & Fox, R. 2017. Using citizen science butterfly counts to predict species population trendsConservation Biology 31, 1350-1361.

*Dennis, E.B., Morgan, B.J.T., Freeman, S.N., Ridout, M.S., Brereton, T.M., Fox, R., Powney, G.D. & Roy, D.B. 2017. Efficient occupancy model-fitting for extensive citizen-science dataPLoS ONE 12, e0174433.

*Dennis, E.B., Morgan, B.J.T., Roy, D.B. & Brereton, T.M. 2017. Urban indicators for UK butterfliesEcological Indicators 76, 184-193. News story

*Dyer, R.J., Gillings, S.G., Pywell, R.F., Fox, R., Roy, D.B. & Oliver, T.H. 2016. Developing a biodiversity-based indicator for large-scale environmental assessment: a case study of proposed shale gas extraction sites in BritainJournal of Applied Ecology 54, 872-882. News story

Elston, D.A., Brewer, M.J., Martay, B., Johnston, A., Henrys, P.A., Bell, J.R., Harrington, R., Monteith, D., Brereton, T.M., Boughey, K.L. & Pearce-Higgins, J.W. 2017 A new approach to modelling the relationship between annual population abundance indices and weather data. Journal of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Statistics 22, 427-445.

*Macgregor, C.J., Evans, D.M., Fox, R. & Pocock, M.J.O. 2016. The dark side of street lighting: impacts on moths and evidence for the disruption of nocturnal pollen transportGlobal Change Biology 23, 697-707. News story

*Macgregor, C.J., Hoare, D.J., Parsons, M.S. & Lewis, O.T. 2017. Host-plant patch qualities and presence of a likely competitor species affect the distribution and abundance of a rare British moth, Cucullia lychnitisJournal of Insect Conservation 21, 137-146.

Martay, B., Brewer, M.J., Elston, D.A., Bell, J.R., Harrington, R., Brereton, T.M., Barlow, K.E., Botham, M.S. & Pearce-Higgins, J.W. 2017. Impacts of climate change on national biodiversity population trends. Ecography 40, 1139-1151.

*McDermott Long, O., Warren, R., Price, J., Brereton, T.M., Botham, M.S. & Franco, A.M.A. 2017. Sensitivity of UK butterflies to local climatic extremes: which life stages are most at risk? Journal of Animal Ecology 86, 108-116. News story

*Mills, S.C., Oliver, T.H., Bradbury, R.B., Gregory, R.D., Brereton, T., Kühn, E., Kuussaari, M., Musche, M., Roy, D.B., Schmucki, R., Stefanescu, C., van Swaay, C. & Evans, K.L. 2017. European butterfly populations vary in sensitivity to weather across their geographical rangesGlobal Ecology and Biogeography 26, 1374-1385.

*Oliver, T.H., Gillings, S., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Brereton, T., Crick, H.Q.P., Duffield, S.J., Morecroft, M.D. & Roy, D.B. 2017. Large extents of intensive land use limit community reorganization during climate warmingGlobal Change Biology 23, 2272-2283. News story

*Palmer, G., Platts, P.J., Brereton, T., Chapman, J.W., Dytham, C., Fox, R., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Roy, D.B., Hill, J.K. & Thomas, C.D. 2017. Climate change, climatic variation and extreme biological responsesPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 372, 20160144.

Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Beale, C.M., Oliver, T.H., August, T.A., Carroll, M., Massimino, D., Ockendon, N., Savage, J., Wheatley, C.J., Ausden, M.A., Bradbury, R.B., Duffield, S.J., Macgregor, N.A., McClean, C.J., Morecroft, M.D., Thomas, C.D., Watts, O., Beckmann, B.C., Fox, R., Roy, H.E., Sutton, P.G., Walker, K.J. & Crick, H.Q.P. 2017. A national-scale assessment of climate change impacts on species: assessing the balance of risks and opportunities for multiple taxaBiological Conservation 213, 124-134.

Pocock, M.J.O., Roy, H.E., Fox, R., Ellis, W.N. & Botham, M. 2017. Citizen science and invasive alien species: predicting the detection of the oak processionary moth Thaumetopoea processionea by moth recordersBiological Conservation 208, 146-154.

Stancă-Moise, C., Brereton, T. & Blaj, R. 2017. The control of the defoliator Lymantra monacha L. populations (Lepidoptera: Lymantriidae) by making use of pheromone traps in the forest range Miercurea Sibiului (Romania) in the period 2011-2015. Scientific Papers Series Management, Economic Engineering in Agriculture and Rural Development 17, 327-331.

*Sullivan, M.J.P., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Newson, S.E., Scholefield, P., Brereton, T. & Oliver, T.H. 2017. A national-scale model of linear features improves predictions of farmland biodiversityJournal of Applied Ecology 54, 1776-1784.



*Baker, D., Barrett, S., Beale, C.M., Crawford, T.J., Ellis, S., Gullett, T., Mayhew, P.J., Parsons, M.S., Relf, P., Robertson, P., Small, J. & Wainwright, D. 2016. Decline of a rare moth at its last known English site: causes and lessons for conservationPLoS One 11, e0157423. News story

*Burns, F., Eaton, M.A., Barlow, K.E., Beckmann, B.C., Brereton, T., Brooks, D.R., Brown, P.M., Al Fulaij, N., Gent, T. & Henderson, I. 2016. Agricultural management and climatic change are the major drivers of biodiversity change in the UKPloS One 11, e0151595.

*Dennis, E.B., Morgan, B.J., Freeman, S.N., Brereton, T.M. & Roy, D.B. 2016. A generalized abundance index for seasonal invertebratesBiometrics 72, 1305-1314.

*Dennis, E.B., Morgan, B.J., Freeman, S.N., Roy, D.B. & Brereton, T. 2016. Dynamic models for longitudinal butterfly dataJournal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics 21, 1-21.

Martay, B., Monteith, D., Brewer, M., Brereton, T., Shortall, C. & Pearce-Higgins, J. 2016. An indicator highlights seasonal variation in the response of Lepidoptera communities to warmingEcological Indicators 68, 126-133.

Redhead, J.W., Fox, R., Brereton T. & Oliver, T.H. 2016. Assessing species’ habitat associations from occurrence records, standardised monitoring data and expert opinion: A test with British butterfliesEcological Indicators 62, 271-278.

*Schmucki, R., Pe'er, G., Roy, D.B., Stefanescu, C., Van Swaay, C.A.M., Oliver, T.H., Kuussaari, M., Van Strien, A.J., Ries, L., Settele, J., Musche, M., Carnicer, J., Schweiger, O., Brereton, T.M., Harpke, A., Heliölä, J., Kühn, E. & Julliard, R. 2016. A regionally informed abundance index for supporting integrative analyses across butterfly monitoring schemesJournal of Applied Ecology 53, 501-510.

Thackeray, S.J., Helaouet, P., Johns, D.G., Jones, I.D., Bacon, P.J., Brereton, T.M., Carvalho, L., Clutton-Brock, T.H., Duck, C., Edwards, M., Elliott, J.M., Hall, S.J.G., Harrington, R., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Pemberton, J.M., Sparks, T.H., Thompson, P.M., White, I., Winfield, I.J., Henrys, P.A., Hemming, D., Leech, D.I., Bell, J.R., Botham, M.S., Burthe, S., Mackay, E.B., Massimino, D., Høye, T.T., Kruuk, L.E.B., Wanless, S. & Atkinson, S. 2016. Phenological sensitivity to climate across taxa and trophic levelsNature535, 241-245.



Botham, M., Fernandez-Ploquin, E., Brereton, T., Harrower, C., Roy, D. & Heard, M. 2015. Lepidoptera communities across an agricultural gradient: how important are habitat area and habitat diversity in supporting high diversity? Journal of Insect Conservation 19, 403-420.

Curtis, R., Botham, M., Brereton, T. & Isaac, N. 2015. The rise and demise of the Glanville fritillary on the Isle of WightJournal of Insect Conservation 19, 305-311.

Curtis, R.J., Brereton, T.M., Dennis, R.L., Carbone, C. & Isaac, N.J. 2015. Butterfly abundance is determined by food availability and is mediated by species traitsJournal of Applied Ecology 52, 1676-1684.

Dapporto, L., Ciolli, G., Dennis, R.L. H., Fox, R. & Shreeve, T. 2015. A new procedure for extrapolating turnover regionalization at mid-small spatial scales, tested on British butterfliesMethods in Ecology and Evolution 6, 1287-1297.

*Eaton, M.A., Burns, F., Isaac, N.J., Gregory, R.D., August, T.A., Barlow, K.E., Brereton, T., Brooks, D.R., Al Fulaij, N. & Haysom, K.A. 2015. The priority species indicator: measuring the trends in threatened species in the UKBiodiversity 16, 108-119.

Eglington, S.M., Brereton, T.M., Tayleur, C.M., Noble, D., Risely, K., Roy, D.B. & Pearce-Higgins, J.W. 2015. Patterns and causes of covariation in bird and butterfly community structureLandscape Ecology 30, 1461-1472.

*Gilburn, A.S., Bunnefeld, N., Wilson, J., Botham, M.S., Brereton, T., Fox, R. & Goulson, D. 2015. Are neonicotinoid insecticides driving declines of widespread butterflies? PeerJ 3, e1402. News story

*Gillingham, P.K., Alison, J., Roy, D.B., Fox, R. & Thomas, C.D. 2015. High abundances of species in protected areas in parts of their geographic distributions colonised during a recent period of climatic changeConservation Letters 8, 97-106.

Gillingham, P.K., Bradbury, R.B., Roy, D.B., Anderson, B.J., Baxter, J.M., Bourn, N.A.D., Crick, H.Q.P., Findon, R.A., Fox, R., Franco, A., Hill, J.K., Hodgson, J.A., Holt, A.R., Morecroft, M.D., O’Hanlon, N.J., Oliver, T.H., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Procter, D.A., Thomas, J.A., Walker, K.J., Walmsley, C.A., Wilson, R.J. & Thomas, C.D. 2015. The effectiveness of protected areas to conserve species undertaking geographic range shifts. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 115, 707-717.

*Macgregor, C.J., Pocock, M.J.O., Fox, R. & Evans, D.M. 2015. Pollination by nocturnal Lepidoptera, and the effects of light pollution: a reviewEcological Entomology 40, 187-198.

*Mason, S.C., Palmer, G., Fox, R., Gillings, S., Hill, J.K., Thomas, C.D. & Oliver, T.H. 2015. Geographical range margins of a wide range of taxonomic groups continue to shift polewardsBiological Journal of the Linnean Society 115, 586-597.

Oliver, T.H., Marshall, H.H., Morecroft, M.D., Brereton, T., Prudhomme, C. & Huntingford, C. 2015. Interacting effects of climate change and habitat fragmentation on drought-sensitive butterfliesNature Climate Change 5, 941-945. News story

Pescott, O.L., Simkin, J.M., August, T.A., Randle, Z., Dore, A.J. & Botham, M.S. 2015. Air pollution and its effects on lichens, bryophytes, and lichen-feeding Lepidoptera: review and evidence from biological recordsBiological Journal of the Linnean Society 115, 611-635.

*Pocock, M.J., Newson, S.E., Henderson, I.G., Peyton, J., Sutherland, W.J., Noble, D.G., Ball, S.G., Beckmann, B.C., Biggs, J. & Brereton, T. 2015. Developing and enhancing biodiversity monitoring programmes: a collaborative assessment of prioritiesJournal of Applied Ecology 52, 686-695.

*Roy, D.B., Oliver, T.H., Botham, M.S., Beckmann, B., Brereton, T., Dennis, R.L., Harrower, C., Phillimore, A.B. & Thomas, J.A.2015. Similarities in butterfly emergence dates among populations suggest local adaptation to climateGlobal Change Biology 21, 3313-3322.

Roy, D., Ploquin, E., Randle, Z., Risely, K., Botham, M., Middlebrook, I., Noble, D., Cruickshanks, K., Freeman, S. & Brereton, T.2015. Comparison of trends in butterfly populations between monitoring schemesJournal of Insect Conservation 19, 313-324.

Suggitt, A.J., Wilson, R.J., August, T.A., Fox, R., Isaac, N.J.B., Macgregor, N.A., Morecroft, M.D. & Maclean, I.M.D. 2015. Microclimate affects landscape level persistence in the British LepidopteraJournal of Insect Conservation 19, 237-253.



Bonsall, M.B., Dooley, C.A., Kasparson, A., Brereton, T., Roy, D.B. & Thomas, J.A. 2014. Allee effects and the spatial dynamics of a locally endangered butterfly, the high brown fritillary (Argynnis adippe)Ecological Applications 24, 108-120.

*Fox, R., Oliver, T.H., Harrower, C., Parsons, M.S., Thomas, C.D. & Roy, D.B. 2014. Long-term changes to the frequency of occurrence of British moths are consistent with opposing and synergistic effects of climate and land-use changesJournal of Applied Ecology 51, 949-957. News story

Mair, L., Hill, J.K., Fox, R., Botham, M., Brereton, T. & Thomas, C.D. 2014.  Abundance changes and habitat availability drive species’ responses to climate changeNature Climate Change 4, 127-131. News story

*Matechou, E., Dennis, E.B., Freeman, S.N. & Brereton, T. 2014. Monitoring abundance and phenology in (multivoltine) butterfly species: a novel mixture modelJournal of Applied Ecology 51, 766-775.

Oliver, T.H., Stefanescu, C., Páramo, F., Brereton, T. & Roy, D.B. 2014. Latitudinal gradients in butterfly population variability are influenced by landscape heterogeneityEcography 37, 863-871.

Pagel, J., Anderson, B.J., O’Hara, R.B., Cramer, W., Fox, R., Jeltsch, F., Roy, D.B., Thomas, C.D. & Schurr, F.M. 2014. Quantifying range-wide variation in population trends from local abundance surveys and widespread opportunistic occurrence recordsMethods in Ecology and Evolution 5, 751-760.