Improving the European environment with butterfly monitoring

An image to represent butterfly monitoring.
© iStock/SW_Olson

A new EU Pilot Project on butterfly monitoring is aiming to inform decisions on improving the European environment.

The project is called ABLE (Assessing ButterfLies in Europe). Butterfly monitoring already occurs across some countries in Europe. The new project will build on the data collected by these existing network, but also expand the monitoring to cover at least eight more EU countries, focusing on southern and eastern Europe.

Using butterfly monitoring to assess species population across Europe

Dr David Roy of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, who leads the partnership, explained: “By using data gathered systematically by thousands of volunteers, we will produce high-quality information on butterfly populations across Europe. We will use this to produce trends for species in grassland, woodland and wetland habitats as well as an overall measure of the state of Europe’s butterflies. We will also examine the impact of climate change and the impact of EU policies and initiatives such as the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and the Common Agricultural Policy.”

The decline of butterflies

Dr Chris van Swaay, Chair of Butterfly Conservation Europe, added: “Butterflies are highly sensitive indicators of environmental change. They also represent insects which are vital parts of the food chain as well as being important pollinators. There has been widespread concern about the decline of insects in recent years and the project will give us a more comprehensive assessment across several EU Countries of a high profile component of this critical group.”

The marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) is a threatened species across Europe due to loss of habitat ©Martin Warren
The Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) is a large and spectacular butterfly that is widespread in Europe © Chris van Swaay

Butterflies as indicators for EU policy

Anne Teller of the EU Directorate General for the Environment, European Commission concluded: “Butterflies are important indicators for policy evaluation at EU level and I welcome this pilot project to upgrade the approach, facilitate additional data collection, engage more volunteers and stimulate action in more EU Member States.”

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