Butterflies enjoy a ‘pandemic effect’ because they have their third ‘good year’ in a row and the number of sightings continues to grow
- 2020 was the third good year in a row for British butterflies, experts say
- Last year ranked as the tenth best for sightings since 1976
- However, researchers warned that the population of many species is still lower than it was 40 years ago
Butterflies enjoyed their third ‘good year’ in a row last year, experts say.
It is thought that warm weather and the fact that more people enjoyed the local wildlife during the pandemic could be reasons for more sightings of species such as the great blue.
Last year ranked 10th best for sightings since 1976 – according to an annual monitoring program from the Butterfly Conservation charity.
However, researchers warned that the population of many species is still lower than it was 40 years ago.
It is thought that warm weather and the fact that more people enjoyed the local wildlife during the pandemic could be the reasons for more sightings of species such as the great blue, pictured
It has sparked a warning of ‘shifting baseline syndrome’, where people forget – or have never experienced – the greater abundance of wildlife in the UK in the past and lower their expectations of how it can be restored.
Just under a third (31%) of the butterfly species assessed in the UK show long-term decline, according to the monitoring schedule.
Dr. Richard Fox, associate director of recording and monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, one of the organizations behind the scheme, warned that perceptions and measurements of what makes a good year have deteriorated over the decades.
He said, ‘There are just fewer and fewer butterflies out there. There are some species that are doing well and against the trend, but in general there are far fewer butterflies.
“ If we think that reaching the number of butterflies in our yard, on our farm, in our local county or in the UK as a whole, that 2020 is a great level to be up to, then we’re kidding ourselves and forgetting we what has been. lost.’
The long-term decline is mainly driven by human activity, particularly habitat loss and climate change, although the number of butterflies is influenced by weather from year to year.
In 2020, the main weather impact on the winged insects was the very warm, sunny spring, which “was not only great at getting us all through that initial blockage, it was fantastic for butterflies,” said Dr. Fox.
Just under a third (31%) of butterfly species assessed in the UK show long-term decline, according to the monitoring schedule
In the common varieties, sulfur, orange point and marbled white all fared well, although their numbers were not at the exceptional level of the previous year.
The little turtle’s numbers were up 103% from 2019 after a string of four bad years, but they were still below the long-term average and have seen a 76% drop since 1976, the study found.
The lesser fritillary had its third worst year on record in 2020, and populations have declined 68% since 1976, while wall, grayling and lesser skipper butterflies have all remained at the backburner, the experts said.
Populations of much rarer butterfly species have benefited from conservation efforts by wildlife groups and landowners, and scarce species like the great blue, silver-spotted skipper and the Duke of Burgundy had some of their best years in research.
But populations of many widespread and common species have declined since the study began in 1976 and were almost certainly declining before that, so even a good year results in lower numbers than in the past, said Dr. Fox.