Butterfly “counters” add up to more than 17,000 records in Portugal. Want to help? | Biodiversity

During three days, in Avis, the conversation will be dominated by a single theme: butterflies. The butterfly “counters” are preparing to take stock of a four-year project in the 3rd Census of Butterflies of Portugal Meeting that brings together researchers, volunteers, nature watchers and representatives of various institutions. In 2022, more than five thousand butterflies of 87 different species were observed. And since the project began, 17,112 have already been sighted.

As these colorful animals are bioindicators, that is, their diversity is an indicator of the diversity of other insects, these numbers not only help to understand the paradigm of butterflies in Portugal, but also to assess the presence in the territory of other insects that are much more difficult to identify. monitor.

Data arriving from other European countries indicate that these insects are decreasing. In a European report that analyzed European butterfly communities between 1990 and 2009, it was realized that “butterflies are not keeping pace with the climate change”.​

Around here, the Census of Butterflies was formed as a project of citizen science which observes and counts individuals and species, with the participation of all. Yours too. And, of course, the more collaboration this work has, the more robust the data obtained. Gathering as much information as possible is an essential step towards understanding the impact of climate change and pollution, and preserving and protecting butterflies.

The butterfly maniola jurta was the most sighted in the last four years
Rui Miguel Felix

Helping this project means leaving home to observe and count these insects. But first, “it is necessary to know a little about the biodiversity of butterflies in your area” (see here the 60 most common species in Portugal) tells us Eva Monteiro, coordinator of the Census of Butterflies in Portugal. contact the organizationwhich will help you to mark your transect (the route that will be covered every 10 days in search of different species of butterflies).

To study butterfly populations it is necessary to obtain “constant data and with the same regularity, for at least 10 years”, emphasizes Eva Monteiro. Bearing in mind that the project started in 2019 and has not yet stabilized, it is not yet possible to calculate trends in Portugal, she says.

The project involves Tagis – Center for the Conservation of Butterflies in Portugal, the Center for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c) and the European Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (eBMS). Researchers and volunteers, as well as other participants in this surveillance program, will gather this Friday and over the weekend at Avis to discuss results from the first four years of butterfly counts.​

Although there is still not enough data to make definitive readings and classify the differences that may have been detected in the number of transects over time, the evolution of the areas monitored with this project seems encouraging. “In 2019 there were nine trasects, in 2020 they rose to 44 and then 50”, says Eva Monteiro.

Now, it is crucial to stabilize these numbers and “have more data to really understand the trends”. The number of insects fluctuates greatly from one year to the next, explains the project coordinator, and a greater or lesser amount may just be associated with the atmospheric or meteorological conditions of that year. We are waiting to see the results and obtain clearer conclusions about the presence of these insects in Portugal, but anyone who wants to do more than that can join the project and become a volunteer butterfly counter.

Text edited by Andrea Cunha Freitas

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