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Counting butterflies for monitoring ecosystem changes

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Butterflies are good indicators of ecosystem health.
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Anyone can participate in the Butterfly Census Weeks. There are beginner and expert categories. (Picture: SABCA)
- Dr Silvia Mecenero,Project Coordinator, Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment (SABCA), UCT

 

South Africa’s third Butterfly Census Week (BCW) is taking place from 23 April to 1 May 2011. This follows on the launch of South Africa’s first two successful censuses last year in an effort to begin a long-term butterfly monitoring programme.

Butterflies are good indicators of ecosystem health, and counting them can provide important information which can be related to land use practices and even climate change. With about 800 butterfly taxa in our country, of which about 10% are threatened with extinction, monitoring our butterflies provides important insights into the conservation of our flying jewels.

Anyone can participate in the BCWs. There are beginner and expert categories. All butterfly species observed by teams (including school teams) over the week at any specific locality are noted and counted. For more information and to register your teams and locality (registration is free), please visit: http://sabca.adu.org.za/bcw3.php

The BCWs were part of the Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment project (SABCA), a joint project of the Animal Demography Unit (University of Cape Town), the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa (LepSoc) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

SABCA ended in March this year and LepSoc has taken over the running of the BCWs with the aim to continue the biannual butterfly census around the country. Similar butterfly censuses have already been running for a number of decades in the UK, US and Canada.

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