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Largest ever butterfly map completed

By Colin Ricketts - 05 Oct 2011 15:37:0 GMT
Largest ever butterfly map completed

A new atlas - the most comprehensive ever published - of European butterfly distribution will be a vital tool in conserving these beautiful and fragile creatures its authors hope. Published by the Society for the Conservation of Butterflies and Moths, the German Nature Conservation Association and the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research, the Distribution Atlas of Butterflies maps each of Europe's 441 butterfly species - worldwide there are about 15-20,000 species of butterfly.

Back in 2002, Otakar Kudrna completed his first distribution atlas for butterflies in Europe, the first to trace the numbers of the species over a whole continent. This time, Otakar has been joined by a team of fellow scientists and specialists who have massively expanded on that first work: trebling the number of records used to 655,000 and making use of the latest computer mapping aids. The work of 272 field volunteers, say the publishers, has been vital to this grand new publication project.

This coincidence map shows the distribution and concentration of all European butterfly species (diversity

This coincidence map shows the distribution and concentration of all European butterfly species (diversity "hotspots" in the mountains of Iberian Peninsula, Alps and Balkan Peninsula) Every third butterfly species inhabits 1 percent or less of the territory of Europe. Credit: Distribution Atlas of Butterflies in Europe. GfS, Halle, Germany

The publishers say that the first aim of the atlas is to push the case for and help facilitate conservation efforts to save butterfly species. Kudrna and his team believe that their detailed mapping of species distribution will identify those which are under threat and help advance pan-European efforts to save them across national boundaries.

Insects are very sensitive to and the new atlas hopes to build on the work of the CLIMIT project which is tracing the effects of warming temperatures on insects and examining ways to mitigate any damage.

For example, while butterflies are often associated with the height of summer, the purple bog fritillary likes colder climes and is retreating into Alpine, Balkan and Baltic mountain habitats. It depends on the common bistort for its food and the threat is that warmer temperatures will cause the butterfly and its lifeline to drift apart.

This new atlas will provide a vital tool in measuring how far climate change is moving or threatening butterfly species.

Top Image Credit: The purple bog fritillary (Boloria titania) © Apor

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Topics: Insects