Get excited, because the Distribution Atlas of Butterflies in Europe was released today, and butterfly scientists will be lining up around the block to get their hands on a copy. The new atlas gives detailed maps of the ranges of all 441 butterfly species found in Europe. The new maps were calculated with computer mapping software from a whopping 655,000 field observations of butterflies all over Europe. To produce this massive book on butterfly biology the highly efficient team of German scientists in charge of the project got help from 272 volunteer naturalists. The map is just one more reason that I need to move to Europe, because we don’t have maps nearly this detailed or recent for North American species (although www.butterfliesandmoths.org will definitely give you all your basic butterfly facts if you’re interested). I often spend a lot of time looking for butterflies where an old field guide said I could find them, only to find out that that population has gone locally extinct. North American, lepidopterists, please take note!
The atlas will be useful both in identifying sparse populations, and identifying areas where there is high butterfly biodiversity for conservation. One in three butterfly species has a range less than 1% of the area of Europe. Put another way, most butterfly species can be found only in an area smaller than Portugal. It’s a good thing someone is keeping track of them.