Butterfly Conservation - saving butterflies, moths and their habitats
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saving butterflies, moths and their habitats
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Transect Monitoring & Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey

See 2014 transects summary

Setting up a transect

Butterflies are widely accepted as invaluable ecological indicators of ecosystem health. Their high reproductive rates, short life cycles and often specialised habitat requirements allow butterflies to respond rapidly to environmental change.

Being insects also adds to the value of butterflies as biodiversity indicators, as insects account for more than 50% of global biodiversity and the majority of animal species in the UK (24,000 insect species, compared to around 200 breeding birds for example). Butterflies also have great popular appeal and are easy to observe and record.

These attributes have enabled a very successful monitoring scheme to be established for butterflies in the UK. This scheme is now known as the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) and it is based on regular counts of butterflies by volunteers along fixed routes ('transects'). The scheme and its predecessors have produced a substantial body of transect data in the UK over the past three decades and these data have proved invaluable for a wide range of applications, including conservation management, population ecology and climate change research.

If you think you would like to help in adding to this wealth of information by creating and monitoring a transect in your locality then please read the following information which will give you brief outline of what is involved.

1)  A transect is a repeatable walk of about 1 to 1.5 km through habitat(s) which obviously usually contains butterflies.

2)  A transect is divided up into a number of sections (max. 14) by types of habitat. Or if the habitat is all the same then by convenient identifiable sections, such as between corners or a length of hedge.

3)  Ideally a transect should be monitored once per week between the beginning of April and the end of September. The odd missing two or three weeks can be accommodated but the results are more useful and accurate if the full 26 weeks are monitored.

4)  Transects should only be monitored between the hours of 1000hrs and 1700hrs and when suitable weather conditions prevail. This means that you cannot say you will set aside a particular time each week but rather that you must be ready to go when the conditions are suitable.

5)  Your transect should be relatively close to your home as weather conditions can change rapidly and the cost and time involved in travelling to your transect should also be taken into consideration.

6)  A transect should only be set up if you consider that you will be able to continue monitoring your transect for a reasonable number of years. Transect data only becomes of use when a number of years data can be analysed to determine trends in butterfly populations on that particular transect and the UK in general.

Consequently if you work full time and you cannot get to your transect and monitor it during your lunch hour or you are not free to leave your work when conditions are suitable then you should not consider setting up a transect.

I always feel that I am putting people off monitoring a transect by specifying the above conditions. It is, however, better to know what you are letting yourself in for before you spend a lot of time setting up a transect only to find that it is not possible to monitor it due to other commitments.

Having decided that you will be able to satisfy the above conditions and you have decided on your transect then you then have to register your transect with Butterfly Conservation and enter details of your transect on the new on-line system.  Information on using the On Line transect Walker system can be found by going to www.ukbms.org/mydata/home which will open "welcome to the UKBMS transect walker on line"

Some further hints and tips about monitoring a transect are given here.

Brian Denham
Transect Coordinator
North East England Branch
tel. 01325 263449

Butterflies of the Wider Countryside

The WCBS is the first UK-wide survey of butterfly abundance based on random sampling and has been running for the past two years.

Basically, a recorder selects 1km square from a list of randomly selected squares which have been allocated to the North East Branch.  On at least two occasions in May to August the recorder records all the butterflies he/she sees whilst walking along two 1km lines, running roughly north south, through the 1km square.  The two lines should be approximately half a kilometre apart.  At the end of the season the results are entered on a report form and forwarded to HQ.

If you would like to help in this survey full information can be found on the Butterfly Conservation web site or by contacting Brian Denham.

More volunteers to do this survey would be greatly appreciated as the North East Branch currently has very few 1km squares being recorded.

Please click here for details of how to participate and the squares available in 2012.

Results for 2010

The national 2010 report can be downloaded from the Butterfly Conservation web-site.  As of February 2012, the results for 2011 have not yet been published.  Between April and September 2010 558 volunteers made 1438 visits to 688 squares across the UK.  Combining 2009 and 2010, almost 3000km were walked and 82224 butterflies of 46 species were seen .

Due to the random nature of the survey it generates many new 10km records for the Butterflies for the New Millenium (BNM) distribution database.  56 new 10km records were generated this year compared with 90 last year. 

The best record for 2010 was Norfolk with 29 1km squares surveyed.  With only 2 squares surveyed the North East has some catching up to do!

Brian Denham

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