Worcestershire Record No. 2 April 1997 p. 6
A major project, Butterflies for the New Millennium, managed by Butterfly Conservation and the national Biological Records Centre at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, is the largest and most comprehensive survey of butterflies ever undertaken in the UK.
Wildlife Trusts, local record centres and many other groups throughout Britain and Ireland are collaborating to pool data through the ButterflyNet initiative, a network of local coordinators covering Britain and Ireland. This will be used to provide a detailed audit of the status of our butterflies, culminating in the production of an atlas in the year 2000, based mainly on recording between 1995 and 1999, but also using historical data. Recording will continue beyond 2000 to ensure the information is kept up-to-date.
Help with the project is warmly welcomed from everyone interested in butterflies. The success of Butterflies for the New Millennium depends upon individual butterfly recorders (you!) contributing to local recording projects, which will then feed into the national database. The data is being collated rapidly each year to give a national picture, and fed back to record centres. Feedback to recorders will be through their local coordinator.
Information from the database will be made available to support research and national and local action plans for threatened butterflies. The statistics on recent decline of some butterflies are very disturbing. The High Brown Fritillary, once common in woodlands in southern Britain, has declined by 94%, while the Marsh Fritillary's range has contracted by over 60%. These changes reflect the widespread loss and damage to wildlife habitats, especially in the lowlands.
Butterflies, like most insects, must breed successfully every year if they are to survive. They are also very sensitive to habitat change. Many of our rarer species which do not fly great distances, are now so isolated that they are unable to re-colonise sites if they fail to breed one year, for whatever reason.
A few species are expanding their range northwards, for example the Small Skipper, Comma and Gatekeeper. Others are colonising new areas within their current range, these include the Brown Argus, Speckled Wood and Ringlet. The reasons for the changes are far from fully understood, but the Butterflies for the New Millennium will help shed some light on the causes.
The map is based on some of the data already received after the first two seasons of the project - there are many gaps still to be filled. You can contribute by noting down details of the butterflies you see at home, out and about in the local countryside or on holiday. Please send your records in at the end of the season, preferably to your local ButterflyNet coordinator, or to Butterfly Conservation, PO Box 444, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5YA. For an information pack, including instructions and special recording forms, please send a large (A4 - approx 9"x12") stamped addressed envelope (31p) to Butterfly Conservation (Head Office), P.O. Box 222, Dedham, Colchester, Essex, C07 6DE. Every record counts and will help to make the national jigsaw picture complete! If you are not already a member of Butterfly Conservation please consider joining. The Society has a network of 30 regional branches which can give local assistance.
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