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Spotlight On: Silver-Studded Blue Butterfly

Posted: Thursday 27th October 2016 by Volunteering

The Silver-studded blue butterfly has declined dramatically over the last century, we're improving habitat to protect it.

On a bright, warm October day the grazing team stepped out onto Brentmoor heath with volunteers in tow. Their purpose? To improve an area of the Heath for the Silver-studded blue butterfly, an indicator species for heathland. For those who don’t know, an indicator species is one which is used to estimate the health of a particular environment and the other wildlife in the area. Indicator species can be among the most sensitive species in a region, and sometimes act as an early warning to monitoring biologists. In this case the silver-studded blue is regarded as an indicator of active lowland heathland management.

The silver-studded blue butterfly has declined seriously this century, estimated to be by about 80%. It has become extinct in Scotland and northern England and throughout most of central, eastern and south-eastern England. Its’ only stronghold is on lowland heath in the South of England.

Threatening this species the most is heathland destruction, neglect or mis-management, combined with habitat fragmentation which prevents recolonisation of areas and increases local extinction (they do not fly very far). The Trust is working hard to manage our heathland to bring it into better condition for heathland specialists such as this butterfly but this is no easy task. Heathland requires constant management to prevent scrub encroachment and succession.

Since 1800 the UK has lost over 80% of its’ lowland heathland and what is left is often fragmented and vulnerable to scrub encroachment. The South East (particularly Surrey and Hampshire) is one of the last strongholds of this special habitat and with the UK holding 20% of the remaining heathland across Europe, we have a special obligation to protect it.

Without the help of hundreds of volunteers and almost year round work parties to clear scrub from our heaths and commons, it would not be possible to safeguard species such as this beautiful little butterfly and many other heathland species. Volunteers should be incredibly proud of the hours of sawing, bashing and dragging away of scrub which is so important locally, nationally and internationally.

Farr, Daniel (2002). Indicator Species. in Encyclopedia of Environmetrics (eds. A H El-Sharaawi and W W Piegorsch), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-471-89997-6.
The Wildlife Trusts, Lowland heathland, 24/10/2016
N.O.M.Ravenscroft and M.S.Warren (1996), Species Action Plan - THE SILVER-STUDDED BLUE, Butterfly Conservation
The Wildlife Trusts, Lowland heathland, 24/10/2016

Katy Fielding

Volunteer coordinator

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