European grassland butterflies in decline

Jul 23, 2013
More than half of Europe's main species of grassland butterflies are in sharp decline as a result of habitat loss, the European Environment Agency (EAA) warned on Tuesday.

More than half of Europe's main species of grassland butterflies are in sharp decline as a result of habitat loss, the European Environment Agency (EAA) warned on Tuesday.

"Butterfly populations have declined by almost 50 percent, indicating a dramatic loss of grassland biodiversity," it said.

Out of 17 species monitored in 19 countries from 1990 to 2011, eight shrank in population, two remained stable and one increased. The trend was uncertain for the other six, the EAA said.

The report blames intensified agriculture, where monoculture of cereals and pesticides are destructive for biodiversity.

But it also points the finger at the of meadowland in mountains and marshy regions, especially in eastern and southern Europe. These lands become swiftly overgrown by scrub and woodland, sidelining the plants on which the butterflies depend.

Butterflies are a bellwether of environmental health, as they play a key role in .

"The dramatic decline in grassland butterflies should ring alarm bells," said Hans Bruyninckx, the Copenhagen-based agency's executive director.

"In general, Europe's grassland habitats are shrinking. If we fail to maintain these habitats, we could lose many of these species forever."

The 17 species, counted by volunteers, comprised seven "widespread" species such as the Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), which is found around Europe, and 10 "specialist" species, such as the Dusky Large Blue (Phengaris nausithous), which is found in cooler regions where there is a food plant called the great burnet.

Explore further: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How to save Europe's most threatened butterflies

Mar 28, 2012

New guidelines on how to save some of Europe's most threatened butterfly species have been published by a team of scientists co-ordinated by Butterfly Conservation Europe. The report covers 29 threatened species ...

Habitat loss wiping out Europe's butterflies

Mar 16, 2010

The destruction of natural habitats in Europe is wiping out butterfly, beetle and dragonfly species across the region, the updated European "Red List" of endangered species showed Tuesday.

Climate adaptation difficult for Europe's birds

Jan 17, 2012

Åke Lindström is Professor of Animal Ecology at Lund University, Sweden. Together with other European researchers he has looked at 20 years' worth of data on birds, butterflies and summer temperatures. During this ...

Southern butterflies move north

Aug 27, 2012

Native butterflies are vanishing from parts of the Northeast, a Harvard University study finds, while warmer-natured southerners are increasingly invading their turf. This coincides with a half-century warming trend in the ...

Recommended for you

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

Sep 19, 2014

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

Asian stars enlisted to fight African rhino poaching

Sep 19, 2014

Increasingly desperate South African conversationists are turning to a multi-national team of "rhino ambassadors" to try to end the scourge of poaching—and Vietnamese pop diva Hong Nhung has been recruited ...

Tropical fish a threat to Mediterranean Sea ecosystems

Sep 18, 2014

The tropical rabbitfish which have devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea pose a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin if their distribution continues to expand as the climate ...

User comments : 0