Skip to content

“Precipitous decline of butterflies a clear warning signal of wider biodiversity crisis”

  • by JW

“Although the four UK nations are among the most ecologically degraded globally, we lead the world in monitoring our remaining wildlife.”


The government unveiled its latest plan to help nature this week: Ambitious roadmap for a cleaner, greener country – GOV.UK

There have been various responses:  – Commenting on the government’s new Environment Plan – Vision Group for Sidmouth and “The grim reality of our impact on nature” – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Not least from a fortnight earlier from the government’s own body set up to determine how well it was doing: ‘Taking Stock’ of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan: latest, damning report – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The startling reality is the collapse in many key environmental indicators over the last decades, right across the globe: UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ – United Nations Sustainable Development

And according to the Museum of Natural History, the UK is “one of the most nature-depleted countries in Europe”: UK has ‘led the world’ in destroying the natural environment | Natural History Museum and New report shows the UK is the least effective G7 member at protecting nature and Britain faces biodiversity collapse

The most striking evidence is the collapse in butterfly numbers in the UK, as reported this week by Butterfly Conservation – which was taken up by the wider press: Britain’s butterfly species have declined by 80 per cent since the 1970s | Evening Standard and Britain’s manicured lawns putting butterflies at risk as ‘loss of habitat’ sees numbers plummet and UK butterflies vanish from nearly half of the places they once flew – study | Butterflies | The Guardian

As the report itself says:

Seven years on from the last State of UK’s Butterflies report, the plight of insects has become a common concern. However, conserving “the little things that run the world” remains an enormous challenge. Although the four UK nations are among the most ecologically degraded globally, we lead the world in monitoring our remaining wildlife. This report presents the latest assessment of the UK’s 59 species of breeding butterfly derived from long-running, countrywide schemes using millions of citizen-science observations to chart the changing abundance and distribution of these iconic insects. The results provide a robust evidence-base for conservation, policy development and scientific research focussed on UK butterflies. Further, they indicate the state of the environment and wider biodiversity in the UK and afford important insights into the global phenomenon of insect decline.

The key findings are:  In the UK, long-term trends show that 80% of butterfly species have decreased in abundance or distribution, or both since the 1970s. By comparison, 56% of species increased in one or both trends. These findings are very similar to the headline results of the previous assessment in 2015. As then, we find that there are winners and losers but, on average, UK butterflies5 have lost 6% of their total abundance at monitored sites and 42% of their distribution over the period 1976-2019.

State of UK Butterflies 2022 Report.pdf and The State of the UK’s Butterflies | Butterfly Conservation

The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2022 report has revealed the alarming news that 80% of butterflies in the UK have declined since the 1970s. Decreases in butterfly populations on this scale are a huge cause for concern as butterflies are an integral part of the UK ecosystem and their precipitous decline is a clear warning signal of the wider biodiversity crisis. But it is not all bad news – the report also shows that our targeted conservation work is very effective at halting declines.

The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2022 Report | Butterfly Conservation