Monday, January 17

80% of nocturnal butterflies have disappeared from large regions of Europe in the last 50 years: the rest of the continent is going the same way

In southeastern Bavaria, night butterflies They represent 90% of the butterfly population and are ten times more species than the diurnal ones. Or were they. Because, in the last half century, populations have collapsed more than 80% and this, more than a curiosity, is a huge problem: these bugs are a very important part of the food chain and many other animals basically feed on them . His disappearance has consequences.

Bavaria (as part of a large region of Germany, the Netherlands or other northern European countries) is, in a way, the ‘canary in the mine’ of the butterflies of continental Europe. The place where the absence of lepidoptera is most evident and its consequences most profound, but (above all) the place that warns of what is to come. Throughout the past decades, The rest of the European countries, as if it were an immense oil stain, have been undergoing similar processes.

The disappearance of the butterflies

The issue is complex and the causes are multiple, but everything seems to indicate that the key problem is related to cultivation. As explained in a interview in Matter German biologist Josef H. Reichholf there a perfect storm in which the effect of pesticides (that not only attack the weeds but to all natural vegetation indiscriminately) and fertilizers (which create very good conditions for a very small group of plants, harming the rest) combines to affect a huge group of living things such as butterflies.

In fact, the best example of all this is that “key elements in the ecosystem” such as road verges (one of the few places where butterfly populations can still take refuge) are also being greatly affected. That is, the effect of practices linked to cultivation has long since exceeded strictly agricultural environments.

Reichholf, who has just published in Spain ‘The disappearance of the butterflies’, explains that climate change only complicates problem management. At the end of the day, this general phenomenon affects different ecosystems in very different ways and while in the north of the Alps it may be about to cause a boom in butterfly populations (which need warm climates to live), in others regions is initiating desertification processes that are killing many endemic species.

Either way, the problem goes beyond butterflies. In the end, as we said on other occasions, Lepidoptera are just one piece of a huge network of ecosystems. Many birds, for example, have a diet based largely on them; If populations disappear, changes in their behavior patterns will occur or, if they have to move to other places, they can unleash pests that are difficult to control. Perhaps the most interesting thing about modern ecology is that we are beginning to understand nature’s huge house of cards and it’s something really fascinating.

Imagen | Beckett Ruiz