UK Butterflies Need Warm Summer in 2008

UK butterflies ‘need good summer’ 
 
The Duke of Burgundy butterflies have seen their numbers fall
 
Butterflies need a warm summer in order to help numbers recover from last year’s washout, say conservationists.

Data from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme showed that eight species were at an all-time low as a result of an unsuccessful summer in 2007.

The main reason behind the decline was an above average rainfall, which meant the insects, such as the common blue, had fewer chances to feed or breed.

Early forecasts suggest this summer could be wetter than average.

Figures compiled by the monitoring scheme, operated by the charity Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, suggested that the creatures experienced their worst year for more than a quarter of a century.

The data, which was collected by thousands of volunteers, also revealed that species that were already declining, including the high brown fritillary and the Duke of Burgundy, suffered another bad year.

British butterflies enjoy the sunshine

“Butterflies face mounting threats,” warned Sir David Attenborough, president of Butterfly Conservation. “Some face possible extinction.”

Conservationists are hoping the affected species will be able to recover this year but they fear that the consequences of last year will have a knock-on effect, resulting in further declines.

They say the worst-case scenario is that local populations of certain butterflies may be too small to recover, and these species will simply disappear from some parts of the UK.

The common blue is one of the most widepsread butterflies in the UK

Biodiversity Minister Joan Ruddock said that the government would support recovery projects.

“Butterflies are a vital element of the British summer,” she said. “Their numbers indicate whether or not there are problems in the countryside.

“Butterfly populations also indicate the speed and extent of climate change. We will provide every encouragement for those working to conserve them.”

Earlier this month, the UK Met Office issued its long-range seasonal forecast for the summer. It suggested that the UK faced a summer with temperatures and rainfall slightly above the long-term average.

But forecasters said the risk of exceptional downpours on the same scale as last year was very low.

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