Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 4th January 2016.

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Photo of The Marquess of Lothian The Marquess of Lothian Conservative

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the reported decline in the population of resident and regular migrant butterflies in the UK, and whether they are taking any action to prevent further decline.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

Defra publishes an annual indicator on butterfly abundance, using data collected by volunteers. Large fluctuations are typical of butterfly populations but in England the indicator shows that butterfly numbers have generally fallen since 1990, although with numbers of some common species stabilising over the last five years.

In England, we will take forward our manifesto commitment to produce a 25 year strategy for the environment, which will include biodiversity. Our approach will be designed to meet the habitat needs of many species including butterflies. In England’s National Pollinator Strategy we are aiming to expand flower rich habitats across different types of land to benefit pollinators including butterflies.

The England network of protected areas provides benefits for many species even when those areas are not specifically designated for the conservation of those particular species. This network includes local and national sites protected under domestic legislation and international sites protected under European and International law. Some of these sites are specifically designated for species of particular importance, including the marsh fritillary butterfly, which is a notified feature of a number of Special Areas of Conservation, designated under the Habitats Directive.

Agri-environment schemes play a major role in the conservation of butterflies in England. For instance, across grassland habitats in Dorset, between 1990 and 2010 the marsh fritillary increased in abundance by around 278% on land managed under these schemes.

In the summer of 2014 the critically endangered high brown fritillary experienced its best season since 2004 with numbers increasing by more than 180% as compared to 2013 across Dartmoor, Exmoor, and Morecambe Bay in Lancashire and sites in the Lake District.

The Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package in the new Countryside Stewardship scheme contain options to improve habitats and provide nectar sources for butterflies. It will play a key role in supporting the National Pollinator Strategy.

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