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Pearl-Bordered fritillary reintroduced to sites in Kent and Sussex

28/07/2010 14:31:48

Pearl-Bordered fritillary, copyright Butterfly Conservation.

Threatened woodland butterfly takes flight in East Sussex and Kent once more

July 2010. The Pearl-Bordered fritillary, one of the UK's rarest woodland butterflies, has spread its wings again in the woodlands of East Sussex and Kent from where it has disappeared.

Abbots Wood & RSPB Tudeley Woods
A pioneering conservation project by the Forestry Commission, Butterfly Conservation and the RSPB is helping to secure the future of this woodland butterfly. The stunning orange and black woodland butterfly, with white 'pearls' on the edge of its hindwing, has been seen in record numbers this year, following successful reintroductions by the Forestry Commission at Abbots Wood in East Sussex and the RSPB at Tudeley Woods in Kent.

More than 250 butterflies were spotted at Abbots Wood in woodland corridors, along pathways and across open spaces from the heart of the forest to the outer edges.

At Tudeley Woods in Kent, where the Pearl-Bordered fitillary had previously disappeared, the RSPB has had initial success with a similar scheme. After several years of coppicing there is a good supply of plants for both adults and caterpillars and an encouraging number of butterflies were seen using them this summer.

Pearl-Bordered fritillary in steep decline in UK
Elsewhere in recent years the population of Pearl-Bordered fitillary has been in steep decline, and it was only found in small numbers in less than ten isolated sites in the South East. This priority species is now thriving on Forestry Commission land in East Sussex and is a significant success in holting the decline during the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

Copyright Butterfly Conservation.

Dan Hoare, Senior Regional Officer for Butterfly Conservation in South East England, said: "These projects are pivotal to the success of this butterfly's conservation in the future. It has given us new hope that we can reverse the declines, and it's brilliant that organisations are working together across the country to share reintroduction techniques. The Forestry Commission and the RSPB have shown that both modern forestry and traditional woodland management can support this threatened species."

Butterflies from Rewell Wood
Both projects started with butterflies collected from a Forestry Commission donor site in Rewell Wood near Chichester, which also has an increasing population of Pearl Bordered fritillary.

Butterflies have used the favourable sunny weather to take advantage of the Forestry Commission's carefully targeted management of the forest landscape. The Pearl-Bordered fritillary is now thriving in the open spaces that have been created by felling trees to provide sustainable timber for British industry.

The ever changing mosaic of open space within the woodland that is linked by the internal corridors along forest roads and rides provides warm and dry conditions necessary for butterfly larvae to grow and an ample source of flowers and nectar during the summer months.

Lack of forestry lead to decline
Once considered to be a flagship species of British woodland, the Pearl-Bordered fritillary used to be widespread and abundant in the woodlands of Southern England, following the trail of the woodcutter's axe. They have been in steep decline for decades, as a direct result of a lack of forest management.

Jay Doyle, Ecologist for the Forestry Commission in South East England said: "The decline of forest management across the British landscape is the single biggest issue affecting woodlands and their biodiversity. Steps are now being taken to address this, typified by the success at Abbots Wood. A growing demand for woodfuel as part of our commitment to renewable energy may well revitalise forestry and woodland management and deliver a brighter future for woodland wildlife such as the pearl-bordered fritillary."

Jane Sears, Biodiversity Projects Officer for the RSPB said: "We aim to protect all biodiversity on our reserves, not just birds. It's wonderful to see that the woodland management at Tudeley Woods RSPB is supporting this beautiful butterfly. We will continue to keep a close eye on them and check we are providing the right conditions and I hope we can encourage other woodland managers to follow our example."

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