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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 22:56 GMT 23:56 UK
Butterflies used to check climate
Small heath. Picture by Jim Asher
Small heath butterflies are not normally seen after September
Moths and butterflies are to be used by the Scottish Government as an indicator of the state of the environment.

Butterfly Conservation Scotland (BCS) said it was delighted by the decision, which it hoped would raise the profile of threatened species.

BCS said the announcement came as a small heath butterfly was spotted a month later than usual.

While warmer weather has brought new species to Scotland, several resident ones have declined, the group said.

BCS director Paul Kirkland spotted the small heath butterfly in Stirling. It is not normally seen after September.

Mr Kirkland said climate change had been affecting the insects over a number of years and welcomed their use as a "biodiversity indicator".

He said: "This is recognition butterflies are useful indicators of the state of the environment."

Dr Martin Warren, chief executive of Butterfly Conservation, said the small heath was not an isolated occurrence.

FLUTTER OF TINY WINGS
A comma, a butterfly from the south of Britain, was spotted in Dundee in August
There are 33 species of butterfly that regularly breed in Scotland and about 1,300 species of moths
Several species survive only in Scotland, having died out in England, including the chequered skipper butterfly, Kentish glory moth and New Forest burnet moth

He said: "This is a phenomenon we are noticing with a lot of butterflies.

"They are coming out earlier than normal and fitting in extra generations in a year."

Dr Warren added: "The change going on has seen new species colonising Scotland in the last few years.

"Your are getting these lovely butterflies, such as the comma, in your garden and also peacock spreading right across the country."

However, he said other species had suffered from a loss of habitat as a result of weather-related and human activities.

The dingy skipper has declined by 75% in the past 20 years.

One factor in its reduction has been the lack of livestock grazing on coastal grasslands.

Welcoming the government's decision, he said: "It is brilliant news.

"Butterflies and moths are very sensitive to changes and if we can learn from them we can help all Scotland's wildlife."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
How butterflies can be used to monitor climate change



SEE ALSO
Butterfly flits for warm weather
16 Aug 07 |  Tayside and Central
Volunteers to help rare isle moth
23 Aug 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Butterfly haven opens
24 Jul 07 |  South of Scotland

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