Researchers in Europe have created a set of new guidelines for the protection of Europe's most threatened butterfly species. Coordinated by the Butterfly Conservation Europe, the report puts the spotlight on 29 threatened species listed in Council Directive 92/43/EEC, more commonly known as the Habitats Directive. The report is part of the SCALES ('Securing the conservation of biodiversity across administrative levels and spatial, temporal, and ecological scales') project, which is backed with EUR 7 million under the Environment Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
All EU Member States must help conserve these species. The report, entitled 'Dos and don'ts for butterflies of the Habitats Directive of the European Union' is presented in the journal Nature Conservation; it provides detailed accounts of each species, their habitat requirements and food plants. The dos and don'ts of managing the habits of these species are also included in the report, which offers all the information one needs to understand how to ensure the protection of the butterflies and to meet the global biodiversity targets.
Researchers say almost 10% of Europe's butterflies are threatened with extinction. According to the European grassland indicator, more than 70% of the abundance of 17 characteristic butterflies has shrunk since the late 1990s. Habitat loss and improper management are responsible for the loss.
Led by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Germany, the researchers say many habitats are now abandoned from agriculture, becoming overgrown with scrub, while others are too intensively managed. The report offers the information we need to ensure improved management of remaining habitats.
Researchers use butterflies to help determine how habitat change impacts both the environment and populations. Improved management for butterflies will give these and other creatures better survival rates, as well as better wildlife and ultimately human survival rates.
'Managing habitats in the correct way is the single most important issue affecting the survival of European butterflies,' says lead author Chris van Swaay of the Dutch Butterfly Conservation. 'This is the first time that practical information has been brought together to address the issue. We hope the advice will be taken up urgently across Europe to help save these beautiful species from extinction.'
For his part, Klaus Henle of the UFZ says: 'Biodiversity loss is one of the most important topics facing the future of our planet. Our new open access journal Nature Conservation is intended to make scientific information freely available to help conserve nature and create a healthy world for everyone. The journal aims particularly at facilitating better interaction between scientists and practitioners, and its major goal is to support synergistic interactions among scientists, policymakers, and managers.'
Researchers from Australia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom make up the SCALES consortium.