UK butterfly populations on the rise

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Global warming has generated a spike in the British butterfly population. Butterflies from countries such as France and Spain are pushed out of their habitats over to the British Isles.

Since the 1970s, three-quarters of the British species’ of butterflies have been in decline. Such a decline has been seen throughout the indigenous species of butterflies for various countries. Especially in the Northern American state of California.

However, researchers at the University of Cambridge, have discovered that in the British Isles, butterfly populations have been on the rise. Due to the effects of global warming, recent heatwaves have led to a thriving environment for various rare species of butterfly.

Kathy Darragh, a PHD student from the University of Cambridge, specialises in butterfly mating patterns and the role in which pheromones play in how a butterfly chooses it’s mate. She currently works with the University of Cambridge, breeding and studying Heliconius butterflies.

Darragh said: “You can rear them under different temperature conditions and study how that affects their development…how the following generations respond to the treatments allows us to study evolution in action. We can then learn more about the genetics of adaptation to the environment and that could inform conservation decisions”.

Dr Andrew Blanton, a butterfly conservation scientist, is currently undergoing an investigation into how various species of butterflies react to changes of temperature in their environment.

Whilst in the thralls of his investigation, Blanton not only discovered global warming effects their habitat but it can change the way they behave and even the frequency in which they breed.

Blanton said: “Globally, climate change is bad news for butterflies but it looks like the opposite will be the case in the British Isles. For the foreseeable future, we’re going to gain more butterfly species than we’re going to lose. The species we’re gaining are being pushed out of Spain and France so we need to be ready to have optimal habitat for them as well as for the species that are already here.

“We can’t be complacent. We’ve got such a fragmented landscape and habitat management is generally so poor that it’s just not supporting species well enough. This is something that we can probably address more easily than climate change itself which, let me be clear, also needs to be tackled. But we can create more reserves, we can manage them better, we can work out how to look after the wider landscape in a more wildlife friendly way. The aim of my research is to work out how we should go about that.”



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