Hope for future of rare butterfly

THE marsh fritillary, one of Britain s most threatened butterflies has seen an unexpected surge in numbers this summer. Recent surveys suggest that numbers in Dartmoor and Exmoor may be on the up. Following the declines noted during the last two very wet

THE marsh fritillary, one of Britain's most threatened butterflies has seen an unexpected surge in numbers this summer. Recent surveys suggest that numbers in Dartmoor and Exmoor may be on the up.

Following the declines noted during the last two very wet summers, the increase in numbers is offering fresh hope.

Butterflies can't fly in the rain, which limits their ability to find nectar and breed, so there was a real concern that the dire conditions in 2007 and 2008 would have had a serious impact on numbers this year.

However, the warm and sunny conditions throughout the spring and early summer encouraged good numbers of fritillary butterflies on many sites across the moors. Marsh fritillaries, which fly from late May to the end of June, had an especially good year, with counts at some Dartmoor sites two or three times higher than those recorded during the previous two years. The only remaining marsh fritillary site on Exmoor also enjoyed record numbers.

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However, this may not be only down to the weather! The Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project, led by Butterfly Conservation in a partnership with Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities, Natural England and the Environment Agency, has been working with landowners and land managers over the past four years to carry out management works to improve the butterflies' habitat.

Ideal habitat management for the butterfly is achieved through traditional farming practices, such as light grazing. Specialist management advice has been given to landowners, and support provided to access funding towards the costs of management works such as scrub clearance and fencing.

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Jenny Plackett, Butterfly Conservation's Project Officer, said: "The marsh fritillary is one of Britain's rarest butterflies, so it's fantastic that this species seems to be making a real recovery on Dartmoor and Exmoor. The landowners are working really hard to improve conditions on their land for the butterfly, and it's very encouraging that their efforts are now showing such positive results."

Other rare fritillary butterflies have also had a promising year. Numbers of high brown fritillary recorded during weekly transect monitoring across known sites on Dartmoor are almost double those recorded in 2008, while the heath fritillary population on the western edge of Dartmoor had the second highest count since weekly recording began in 1994. Timed counts of the heath fritillary in Exmoor were also very positive.

For more information on the Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project, contact Jenny Plackett on 0300 060 2405.

Notes for Editors

Butterfly Conservation is the largest insect conservation charity in Europe with over 14, 000 members in the UK. Its aim is the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. It runs conservation programmes for over 60 threatened species of butterfly and moth, organises national butterfly recording and monitoring schemes, and manages over 30 nature reserves. Further information can be found at http://www.butterfly-conservation.org

Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor was designated a National Park by statute in 1951. It is 368 square miles (954 sq km) in area, has about 33,400 people living in it, and millions of people visit it each year. The Dartmoor National Park Authority was created in 1974.

The statutory purposes of National Parks as stated in the Environment Act, 1995 are:

to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Parks.

to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Parks by the public.

In undertaking this work for the natural environment, Dartmoor National Park Authority

provides advice and information to local people, businesses and organisations

works in partnership with other countryside agencies on joint areas of activity

runs grant schemes which benefit Dartmoor's landscape and wildlife

owns and manages land (including moorland and woodland)

organises special projects which focus on particular areas or subjects.

The Two Moors Threatened Butterfly Project receives funding and support from Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Exmoor National Park

'Enhancing the qualities that make Exmoor special'

Visit our website at http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk

Bea Davis, Conservation Advisor (Farming & Wildlife), Exmoor National Park Authority Tel: 01398 323665 Direct Line: 01398 322288.

Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. For further information about Natural England please visit: www.naturalengland.org.uk

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