Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 365–371 | Cite as

Initial population trends from a 5-year butterfly monitoring scheme

  • Wouter T. Staats
  • Eugenie C. Regan


The Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme started in 2007. The main objective of this study was to examine initial population trends from data gathered over 5 years (2008–2012) by approximately 150 volunteers across the Republic of Ireland. Nine of the 15 species analysed showed changes in population over the 5-year period; three species showed steep or moderate increases while six species showed moderate or steep declines in population. Some of these population changes are due to the highly variable weather conditions over the five years of monitoring, particularly the unusually cool, wet summer of 2012. However, factors affecting butterfly population trends are many and varied, so longer-term data are required to assess trends more reliably. A further six species had indeterminate trends over the 5-year period however, as the scheme develops, longer-term trends will have greater statistical reliability and give a clearer insight into Irish butterfly populations. The Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is important in the national context, as there is little other countrywide systematic monitoring of insect populations. Furthermore, with a growing number of such standardised monitoring schemes internationally and development of bioindicators, it is now possible to monitor and track butterfly populations at larger spatial scales. We recommend that the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is continued over the long term and expanded to ensure that more Irish butterfly species are sufficiently monitored. However, in addition to monitoring population trends, basic research is still needed into the ecology and population dynamics of common butterfly species.


Population trend Abundance Butterflies Lepidoptera Bioindicator Ireland 



Our gratitude goes out to all the volunteers who helped gather butterfly data for the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Further thanks go out to Chris van Swaay, Arco van Strien, Wim Plantenga, for explaining TRIM, giving feedback on results, and Stephen McCormack for help with editing the manuscript. Thank you also to two anonymous referees for very valuable comments. We would like to thank staff of the National Biodiversity Data Centre for their support of the scheme including Liam Lysaght, Stefanie Fleischer, Úna Fitzpatrick, Maria Walsh, and Barry O’Neill. The Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme has been financed by the Heritage Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied BiologyHAS Den Bosch University of Applied Sciences’s-HertogenboschThe Netherlands
  2. 2.National Biodiversity Data CentreCounty WaterfordIreland
  3. 3.UNEP World Conservation Monitoring CentreCambridgeUK

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