Butterflies as indicators
Butterflies are increasingly being recognised as valuable environmental indicators, both for their rapid and sensitive responses to subtle habitat or climatic changes and as representatives for the diversity and responses of other wildlife.
One of the principle objectives of the UKBMS has been to investigate and develop the role of butterflies as indicators of the state of biodiversity in the UK.
titles below will show that piece of information. However, you can also chose to
Show All the sections, or even Hide All, if you so wish.
What makes butterflies good indicators?
Their biology and charismatic
appeal make butterflies ideal
Butterflies have short life cycles and thus react quickly to environmental changes. Their limited dispersal ability, larval foodplant specialisation and close-reliance on the weather and climate make many butterfly species sensitive to fine-scale changes. Recent research has shown that butterflies have declined more rapidly than birds and plants emphasising their potential role as indicators.
Butterflies occur in all of the main terrestrial habitat types in the UK and so have the potential to act as indicators for a wide range of species and habitats. Unlike most other groups of insects, butterflies are well-documented, their taxonomy is understood, they are easy to recognise and we have a wealth of information on their ecology and life-histories.
Because insects make up the largest proportion of terrestrial wildlife (more than 50% of species), it is crucial that we assess the fate of insect groups in order to monitor the overall state of biodiversity. Being typical insects, the responses seen in butterflies are more likely to reflect changes amongst other insect groups, and thus the majority of biodiversity, than established indicators such as those based on birds.
Because insects make up the largest proportion of terrestrial wildlife (more than
50% of species), it is crucial that we assess the fate of insect groups in order
to monitor the overall state of biodiversity. Being typical insects, the responses
seen in butterflies are more likely to reflect changes amongst other insect groups,
and thus the majority of biodiversity, than established indicators such as those
based on birds.
By monitoring we hope to have a more sensitive indicator for insects, which dominate
biodiversity - accounting for more than 50% of UK species
Published butterfly indicators
Our goal is to produce Governmental butterfly biodiversity indicators for all of the UK countries and for the UK as a whole. Indicators have now been published for the whole of the UK and country indicators are published for England and Scotland. These indicators are classified as ‘Official Statistics’, and are produced to the high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, which sets out eight principles including meeting user needs, impartiality and objectivity, integrity, sound methods and assured quality, frankness and accessibility.
More information on the Official Statistics Code of Practice can be found at http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html.
Indicators for Wales and Northern Ireland are under development.
Assessing trends in butterfly populations
and butterfly indicators
A range of techniques have been proposed for the analysis of butterfly monitoring
data, including those collated by the UKBMS. Similarly, a range of techniques are
available for measuring trends in butterfly indicators. See
details of the technical