Restoration of Butterfly Populations in Britain


  • Current address: School of Biological Sciences, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, United Kingdom.


Over the last 150 years butterflies have declined rapidly in both distribution and abundance in Britain. The majority of species declines can be linked with widespread habitat destruction that has occurred over the same period. The resulting concern for their conservation has provided many examples of attempts at restoration, most of which have been unsuccessful. The most common reasons for failure appear to be unsuitability of the habitat or lack of knowledge of the species' requirements, but in many cases the recording of the attempt is inadequate for any assessment to be made. Case studies of recent restoration efforts for four butterfly species are used to illustrate that successful restoration depends on detailed study of the species1 ecology and–particularly–habitat requirements, the ability and the resources to manage the habitat to provide those requirements, and a formal scientific approach that maximizes the information gained from the restoration process. As more land in Britain is taken out of intensive agricultural use, opportunities will increase for restoration programs. Prominent and popular species indicative of particular habitats can act as a focus for restoration of the habitat as a whole.