The European Butterfly Indicator for Grassland species: 1990-2015

C. A. M. Van Swaay, A. J. Van Strien, K. Aghababyan, S. Åström, M. Botham, T. Brereton, Bruce Carlisle

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This report presents the sixth version of the European Grassland Butterfly Indicator, one of the EU biodiversity indicators of the European Environment Agency. The indicator is based on more than 9200 transects in national Butterfly Monitoring Schemes covering 22 countries across Europe, most of them active in the European Union. In 2015, counts were made in more than 4500 transects. Butterflies represent the largest animal group (insects), highly included in food webs, having a high impact on ecosystem services and stability. This report does not represent only the patrimonial conservation of some species, but indicates the changes in biodiversity on grasslands and discusses underlying causes. Fluctuations in numbers between years are typical features of butterfly populations. The assessment of change is therefore made on an analysis of the underlying trend. Indicators were produced on EU, European (EU plus Norway and Switzerland) and pan-European level (including Ukraine, Russia and Armenia). The underlying analysis of the indicator shows that since 1990, grassland butterfly abundance has declined by 30%. The rate of loss has slowed in the last 5-10 years. Part of this slowing down might be caused by climate warming, as this favours cold-blooded animals like butterflies, thus masking the effects of intensification. In parts of Western Europe butterfly numbers outside nature reserves have come to an absolute minimum, meaning it is unlikely for the indicator to further drop. The priority now is to halt further losses and support recovery. This can only come about with greater protection and more sustainable management of semi-natural grassland.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherDe Vlinderstichting
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


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