14Ingham’s W RLD
SITTING in my garden in summer sunshine this week it was hard to believe I was witnessing a mass extinction. Small white butterflies were jousting over the flowerbeds, peacocks and red admirals basking in the sun and even a silver-washed fritillary (I think that’s what it was – tricky chaps, butterflies) got in on the act.
Then in flew a painted lady, a species which migrates from south of the Sahara each year, hopping northwards in successive generations before making the trek back to Africa.
But this was a very special day, the best for butterflies this year. So a Cambridge University study this week rang true. Dr Lynn Dicks from the Department of Zoology said: “Where are the clouds of butterflies in the late summer garden, or the myriad moths fluttering in through open windows at night?”
“We are in the midst of a species extinction crisis but for many people that is intangible. Perhaps pollinators are the bellwether of mass extinction.”
In the UK 70 per cent of butterfly species are in decline and 24 per cent of Europe’s bumblebee species are at risk of extinction.
Overall 41 per cent of UK wildlife species are in decline and 15 per cent at risk of disappearing from these islands.
It’s a pattern being repeated around the world, from tigers to chimps, lions to albatrosses.
Pollinators are being lost to habitat destruction, farming’s fertilisers and crop monoculture plus pesticide use, Dr Dicks wrote in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Throw climate change with its extremes of weather into the mix and the future looks bleak.
The demise of pollinators is bad news. Every year they provide a service to agriculture worth £420billion worldwide.
Dr Dicks said: “What happens to pollinators could have huge knock-on effects for humanity.
These small creatures play central roles in the world’s ecosystems, including many that humans and other animals rely on for nutrition. If they go, we may be in serious trouble.”
So help them to help you – plant nectar-rich flowers which bloom at different times of the year. Michaelmas daisies are good for autumn.
And every time you see a butterfly, bee and even a wasp, be grateful they’re still here.
YOU can save the planet without giving up meat, says the British Nutrition Foundation.
It backs the Government’s Eatwell Guide which urges us to eat less meat and more fruit and veg. This will slash greenhouse gas emissions by a third and reduce cases of killer diseases.
But cutting out animal products altogether could be a problem because they provide so many nutrients.
So the BNF backs a “plantrich diet, which can still include some meat, fish, dairy products and eggs”.
That’s a relief. The last vegan treat I had was like eating gravel.