Landscape-scale conservation for butterflies and moths

Posted by Michael Williams on 21/01/2013

Butterfly Conservation have recently published a report on their work with landscape conservation for butterflies and moths. The report includes 12 case studies providing evidence that landscape conservation targeting single species can benefit not only the target species, but other species utilising similar habitats as well.

Landscape-scale conservation has two main objectives: maximise habitat quality within individual sites; and improve connectivity between sites. Butterfly Conservation have now shifted the focus of their conservation work from single sites to networks of sites across landscapes.

Using this approach, they have had some major successes. For instance, by improving breeding habitats and connectivity within patches for the Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) on Dartmoor, they have more than doubled the area of occupied suitable habitat. Woodland management for Pearl-bordered Fritillaries (Boloria euphrosyne) in the Wyre Forest also resulted in nearly doubling the amount of suitable occupied habitat. In this case, targeted management close to existing sites was one of the key factors in the success. Through scrub clearance, planting of foodplants and creating habitat corridors, Small Blue butterflies (Cupido minimus) rapidly colonised new habitats. Several uncommon species, including other butterfly species and the nationally notable dotted bee-fly (Bombylius discolor) have benefitted from these conservation efforts.

Large scale agri-environment and woodland grant schemes have played an important role in the conservation of some species. For instance, the South Wessex Downs Environmentally Sensitive Area included an extensive grazing supplement following advice from Butterfly Conservation on habitat management for Marsh Fritillary. Key sites were entered in agreement that maintained or restored suitable grassland, and since then the number of Dorset colonies has risen to the largest number in 30 years. The results of these efforts were noted by Ecosulis on surveys of chalk downland SSSIs in Dorset in 2012.

By focussing on landscapes, butterfly meta-populations have a greater chance of survival. Butterfly Conservation showed that by working closely with other conservation organisations, volunteers, government bodies and landowners, conservation at the landscape scale is possible and can be crucial in reversing apparently catastrophic regional declines of butterflies.

The full report can be accessed here: