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Summary of Key Findings

These summary statistics and analyses are based on the European butterflies dataset published in March 2010. They were produced by a network of experts, co-ordinated by IUCN and Butterfly Conservation Europe.

Overall, about 9% of European butterflies are threatened in Europe, and 7% are threatened at the EU27 level. A further 10% of butterflies are considered Near Threatened. These figures represent minimum estimates as trends are poorly known in many countries, including some eastern European countries that comprise large parts of the study region. It should also be noted that both the distribution and population size of numerous species have declined severely during the 20th century (but not in the time frame of 10 years or three generations taken into consideration by IUCN methodology), especially in Western Europe. In some cases the few remaining populations in there countries are nowadays stable as a result of conservation measures, which means these species do not occur in the list of threatened species.

By comparison, 11% of the saproxylic beetles, 13% of the birds, 15% of the mammals and the dragonflies, 19% of the reptiles and 23% of the amphibians are threatened at the European level. No other groups have yet been comprehensively assessed at the European level.

About a third (31%) of the European butterflies has declining populations, 4 percent are increasing and more than half of the species are stable. For the remaining 10%, the current information is too limited to define their population trend.

Almost a third of the butterflies species (142 species) are endemic to Europe (which means that they are unique to Europe and are found nowhere else in the world). The highest diversity of butterflies is found in mountainous areas in Southern Europe, mainly in the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Balkans mountains, where numerous restricted-range species are encountered.

Most of the threatened species are confined to parts of South Europe. The main current threat to European butterflies is the loss of their habitat or habitat connectivity due to the changes in agricultural practices, either through intensification or abandonment. Other important threats are climate change, increased frequency and intensity of fires and tourism development.

In order to improve the conservation status of European butterflies and to reverse their decline, further conservations actions are urgently needed. In particular: ensuring the adequate protection and management of key butterfly habitats and their surrounding areas, drawing up Species Action Plans for the most threatened species, establishing monitoring programmes, improving land management policies such as the European Agricultural Policy, and revising national and European legislation, adding species identified as threatened where needed.