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Small Copper slumps as butterflies struggle

by Butterfly Conservation, The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).
Date: 22/03/2016

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One of the UK's most widespread butterflies, the Small Copper, has suffered its worst year on record and is now in a state of significant decline, a study has revealed.

The summer of 2015 was cooler than average with the majority of widespread and habitat specialist butterflies struggling as a result.

The Small Copper saw numbers fall by almost a quarter last year compared to 2014, the annual UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) led by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) revealed.

Found across the UK, the Small Copper, an occasional garden visitor, has seen its numbers tumble.

Previous research suggests the butterfly has suffered substantial declines over the last century due to habitat loss, but relatively poor weather in recent years may also be aggravating this decline.

2015's dry spring was followed by the coldest and wettest summer for three years. Some 34 of the 57 butterfly species monitored by the scheme experienced declines, with the lack of summer warmth a factor in this.

Heath Fritillary, one of the UK's scarcest species suffered its worst year on record with numbers down 16% compared to 2014.

The rare British race of the Swallowtail, arguably the UK's most striking butterfly, suffered the largest decline of any species with numbers down 65% compared to 2014.

Widespread butterflies also experienced a poor year with garden visitors the Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell down 21% and 44% respectively.

The Wall continued its on-going slump with numbers down 44% compared to 2014 and the Grayling declined by 38%.

Despite a generally poor year for butterflies some species thrived. The Marbled White and Brimstone experienced their best years on record and despite the lack of an expected substantial influx, the Painted Lady saw its numbers rise by 200%.

Dr Tom Brereton, Head of Monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, said: "In recent years it has become apparent that some of our most familiar and cherished butterflies are declining substantially. Sadly, our latest results show that the diminutive but stunning Small Copper can be added to this list"..

Dr Marc Botham, Butterfly Ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: "2015 was a mixed year. Much of the summer was cooler than average resulting in annual declines in many species. Some species had a good year emphasising the complex relationship between weather and annual fluctuations in butterfly populations." Sarah Harris, Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) National Organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology, said: "It is thanks to the dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers across the UK who take part in the UKBMS scheme that we have such a clear picture of what is happening to our butterflies, both long-term and between years; without these brilliant citizen scientists we would know a great deal less. Many thanks to all those who took part and made this report possible."

The UKBMS has run since 1976 and involves thousands of volunteers collecting data through the summer. Last year a record 2,436 sites were monitored across the UK.

The scheme is operated by Butterfly Conservation, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the British Trust for Ornithology and funded by a multi-agency consortium including the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Forestry Commission, Natural England, the Natural Environment Research Council, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage. The UKBMS is indebted to all volunteers who contribute data to the scheme.

CONTACTS
For interviews and images contact:
Butterfly Conservation Press Office on 01929 406005 news@butterfly-conservation.org

Butterfly Conservation is the UK charity dedicated to halting the rapid decline of butterflies and moths and protecting our environment. We run conservation programmes for more than 100 threatened species and manage over 30 nature reserves. www.butterfly-conservation.org

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is the UK's foremost independent bird research organisation and organises a range of annual and periodic surveys, mainly on birds, and including the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey. Information on population trends in birds and other wildlife are provided on our website (www.bto.org) and you can follow the latest news and developments via twitter @_BTO.

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is the UK's Centre of excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of the Natural Environment Research council (NERC), employs more than 450 people at four major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment. www.ceh.ac.uk You can follow the latest developments in CEH research via twitter www.twitter.com/CEHScienceNews and our rss news feed http://www.ceh.ac.uk/rss.xml

If you have any questions or require more information about this press release, please contact Butterfly Conservation, The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH). by email.

About Our Press Releases

Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire regularly issue press releases on issues in relation to butterfly and moth conservation in the Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull area alongside occasional press releases covering national stories from Butterfly Conservation's head office.

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Notes For Editors
Butterfly Conservation is the largest conservation charity of its type in Europe with over 13,000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes on over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth, organises national butterfly recording and monitoring schemes, and manages over 30 nature reserves.

Further information at: www.butterfly-conservation.org