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IUCN Red List Status

These summary statistics and analyses are based on the European butterflies dataset published in March 2010.

The status of butterflies was assessed at two regional levels: geographical Europe and the EU27. At the European level, 8.5% of the species (37 species) are considered as threatened, with 0.7% of them being Critically Endangered, 2.8% Endangered and 5% Vulnerable (Table 3 and Figure 3 and 4). A further 10.1% is classified as Near Threatened. At the EU27, 7.1% of the butterflies (30 species) are threatened with extinction, of which 0.5% are Critically Endangered, 2.1% Endangered and 4.5% Vulnerable. In addition, 11.2% are considered as Near Threatened. One species is Regionally Extinct at the European level (Aricia hyacinthus) and an additional one is Regionally Extinct at the EU27 level: Tomares nogelii has disappeared from Romania and Moldova before 1999, but still occurs in Ukraine. The Madeiran Large White (Pieris wollastoni), restricted to the island of Madeira (Portugal), has not been reported since the 1970s despite several visits of lepidopterists to its former habitat. It is therefore considered as Critically Endangered, Possibly Extinct.

About a third (31%) of the European butterflies are considered to be declining. More than half (55%) of them seem to have stable populations, while only 4% are increasing. A further 10% have unknown populations trends.

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

Forty-eight species were considered as Not Applicable, either due to their marginal occurrence in Europe or because they were introduced after AD 1500.

Table 1: Summary of numbers of butterfly species within each category of threat
  IUCN Red List categories No. species Europe (no. endemic species) No. species EU 27
(no. endemic species)
Regionally Extinct (RE) 1 2
Critically Endangered (CR) 3(2) 2(1)
Endangered (EN) 12(6) 9(5)
Vulnerable (VU) 22(14) 19(10)
  Near Threatened (NT) 44(11) 47(7)
Least Concern (LC) 349(107) 338(54)
Data Deficient (DD) 4(2) 4(1)
Total number of species assessed * 435(142) 421(78)

*This table does not include the Not Applicable species in Europe and/or the EU (species introduced after AD 1500 or species of marginal occurrence). For the EU 27 assessment the Not Evaluated species (species which do not occur in the EU) are also excluded.

Red List status of butterflies in Europe

Red List status of butterflies in Europe
Red List status of butterflies in Europe.
Click to enlarge
Red List status of butterflies in the EU27
Red List status of butterflies in the EU27.
Click to enlarge

Status by taxonomic group

The European butterflies belong to a number of different families, among which considerable differences exist both in species numbers as well as in threatened status.

Red List Status (European Regional level) of butterflies by taxonomic family.

Family Total* RE CR EN VU NT LC DD % Threatened*
HESPERIIDAE 43 0 0 0 1 4 38 0 2.3%
LYCAENIDAE 112 1 0 5 6 14 83 3 9.7%
NYMPHALIDAE 214 0 2 4 12 17 178 1 8.5%
PAPILIONIDAE 12 0 0 0 0 5 7 0 0.0%
PIERIDAE 53 0 1 3 3 4 42 0 13.2%
RIODINIDAE 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0,0%
Total 435 1 3 12 22 44 349 4 8.5%

*Does not include species classed as Not Applicable (NA).