Mak­ing space for but­ter­flies

City parks can be­come sanc­tu­ar­ies for but­ter­flies.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH - Star2­green@ thes­tar. com. my

UR­BAN parks are a refuge for but­ter­flies but if kept semi- wild, they will har­bour even more of the flut­ter­ing in­sects, a study has found.

In their sur­vey of 10 parks in Kuala Lumpur, re­searchers from Univer­siti Malaya dis­cov­ered that big­ger and older parks, as well as those with pock­ets of wild ar­eas, host more species of but­ter­flies.

“Th­ese ar­eas have more types of plants, and but­ter­flies rely on plants for food,” ex­plains en­to­mol­o­gist and PhD stu­dent Sing Kong- Wah. He says ar­eas which are un­man­aged in parks re­sem­ble wild sites and have less hu­man dis­tur­bance com­pared with land­scaped ar­eas, and so have higher but­ter­fly di­ver­sity.

For the study, Sing and his col­leagues sur­veyed but­ter­flies in Ta­man Botani Per­dana ( Lake Gar­den), Ta­man Rimba Bukit Kiara, Ta­man Tasik Ti­ti­wangsa, Ta­man Tasik Man­jalara, Ta­man Metropoli­tan Batu, Ta­man Tasik Per­maisuri, Ta­man Bukit Jalil, Ta­man Pudu Ulu, Ta­man Tasik Am­pang Hilir and Ta­man Alam Da­mai.

They found a to­tal of 60 species out of the 1,000 species found in Penin­su­lar Malaysia. Ta­man Tasik Per­maisuri in Cheras has the most num­ber of species while Ta­man Tasik Am­pang Hilir, the park clos- est to the city’s cen­tral busi­ness district, the least. Ex­cept for two rare ones, all the recorded species are com­mon and wide­spread.

“The lack of rare species in KL parks, which is sim­i­lar to find­ings from Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong, in­di­cates that city parks are poor sub­sti­tutes to nat­u­ral habi­tats for main­tain­ing pop­u­la­tions of rare but­ter­flies,” says Sing. “In or­der to pro­mote but­ter­fly di­ver­sity in trop­i­cal city parks, park man­agers should set aside ar­eas of the parks as un­man­aged, semi- nat­u­ral area. Where man­age­ment is nec­es­sary, the man­agers should use a di­verse plant­ing scheme of na­tive flow­ers.”

But­ter­flies can in­di­cate the health of green spa­ces as they re­act rapidly to en­vi­ron­men­tal change due to their short life­span. “If a park is not so healthy, there is usu­ally fewer species of but­ter­flies,” says Sing. But­ter­flies form an in­te­gral part of the green land­scape as they are pol­li­na­tors, and their lar­vae is food for other crea­tures such as birds.

Sing says 20% to 40% of the but­ter­fly species of South- East Asia are threat­ened with ex­tinc­tion due to ur­ban­i­sa­tion and de­for­esta­tion. He says since 1990, Kuala Lumpur has seen an 87% loss in green land, a 77% in­crease in the hu­man pop­ula- tion, and ur­ban sprawl across the out­ly­ing Klang Val­ley.

He says un­der­stand­ing the bio­di­ver­sity of city parks is crit­i­cal, but has re­ceived lit­tle at­ten­tion. “City parks not only serve as green lungs, pro­vid­ing fresh air and recre­ation grounds for the ur­ban com­mu­nity. They are also im­por­tant for lo­cal wildlife, pro­vid­ing refuge for an­i­mals which need green spa­ces to sur­vive.”

He says one way to in­crease but­ter­fly species rich­ness is to link up ur­ban parks through green cor­ri­dors which can take the form of tree- lined streets or rooftop gar­dens on high- rises.

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