Climate change is already affecting the UK’s mountain ringlet butterflies. They have disappeared from almost 40% of the sites they occupied since the 1970s and have been forced to retreat uphill as lower altitude sites become too warm for them to survive. They may also have been affected by changes in habitat management.
To stop this worrying decline, RSPB scientists urgently need your help to develop conservation solutions that will allow mountain ringlets to adapt to the challenges they face. This project is a partnership project with the National Trust, Butterfly Conservation, the Cumbria Branch of Butterfly Conservation, and National Trust for Scotland, with support from www.ukbutterflies.co.uk.
The mountain ringlet is the UK’s only montane butterfly and is found on mountain grasslands above 400 metres in the Lake District and the central Scottish Highlands. Mountain ringlets spend up to two years as caterpillars, feeding on the tips of grasses at night, before retreating to the base of grassy tussocks by day. These caterpillars endure some truly horrendous winter conditions on the mountains!
Mountain ringlets emerge as butterflies during a brief flight season in June or July. They probably live for no more than a few days, when they can be seen flitting over mountain grassland or sipping nectar from flowers.
The remote and extreme upland environment that mountain ringlets call home makes studying them incredibly difficult. As a result they are one of the least well-known of the UK’s butterflies. Even some of the most basic aspects of their ecology, such as which plants the caterpillars feed on, are not yet fully understood.
This lack of knowledge is hampering our efforts to save mountain ringlets, so we urgently need your help to carry out a research project aimed at discovering what they need to survive.
Building on a very successful pilot study carried out at the RSPB’s Haweswater reserve in 2015, we will study the butterflies at a number of sites in the Lake District and Scottish Highlands, to gain an understanding of their needs across their range.
With your support, we hope to raise £6,000 to fund this vital project which would allow us to:
- Understand what habitats mountain ringlets need.
- Investigate how climate change is affecting mountain ringlets.
- Investigate whether the intensity of upland sheep grazing can be tailored to provide optimum habitat for mountain ringlets. This could help to counteract the negative effects of climate change.
- Develop habitat management that can be applied across landscapes to help mountain ringlets adapt to climate change.
Please donate today. Together, we can give mountain ringlets a brighter future in the UK.
Video footage of Mountain Ringlets during the flight period was generously provided by Paul Wetton and wildlife-films.com.