Over the past 51 years, the National Trust’s butterfly expert Matthew Oates has seen the extinction of three butterfly species in England. They include the large blue, chequered skipper and large tortoiseshell, as well as the catastrophic decline of many others. But he has also cheered on the successful reintroduction of the large blue and the revival of other rare species such as the Adonis blue and heath fritillary.
“This is a really exciting era in which to be butterflying,” says Matthew. “The big message is our butterflies are going to change. But change is the norm. Change is what a butterfly is all about.”
But conservationists are aware that climate change will put increasing pressure on butterfly populations. “We know that butterflies are responding to macro-climate changes but there’s also the microclimate. The difference between the soil surface temperature and the temperature on a 15cm high blade of grass could be 10 degrees centigrade. Butterflies can play with this huge variety in temperatures in the landscape to survive.”
You can read more about the wave of exotic butterflies arriving in the UK and the challenges that existing species face in Patrick Barkham’s feature in the July issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine.
Watch six amazing videos from Patrick Barkham’s Guide to British Butterflies DVD:
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Duke of Burgundy
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