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Rare butterflies revived by linking conservation sites

Linking up and restoring areas of natural habitat are key to preventing threatened butterflies and moths from becoming extinct.

Stirling-based Butterfly Conservation said that "landscape-scale" conservation efforts, which involve managing habitats for a range of species across a large natural area, can help rare butterflies.

In its report, the charity said it has used the landscape-scale approach for more than a decade to manage existing habitats and link them to newly restored areas, a move which has helped species including the small blue and the marsh and pearl-bordered fritillaries.

The small blue has increased from three colonies in Warwickshire to eight in three years.

The numbers of marsh fritillary in one valley in Dartmoor have increased by more than 1000% in five years and the numbers of pearl-bordered fritillary colonies in the Wyre Forest in the West Midlands doubled in 10 years.

Many species flourished as a result of landscape-scale conservation efforts in each of 12 landscapes examined, the report said.

Butterflies and moths respond very rapidly to landscape-scale conservation, and projects focused on a single species also brought benefits to a range of other species.

The research comes after Sir John Lawton's Making Space for Nature review for the Government in 2010, which called for more, bigger, better-managed and joined-up protected areas in England to help reverse declines in wildlife.

Sir John said: "The Butterfly Conservation report shows what can be achieved through a highly focused species-led approach. Very simply, 'more, bigger, better and joined' works and needs to be rolled out far more widely.

"Re-creating, restoring and joining up habitats benefits not just butterflies and moths but a host of other creatures with which they share their habitat."

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