Site indices, as a relative measure of the actual population size, for UK butterfly species calculated from data from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS). Site indices are a relative rather than an absolute measure of the size of a population, and have been shown to relate closely to other, more intensive, measures of population size such as mark, release, recapture (MRR) methods. The site index can be thought of as a relative measure of the actual population size, being a more or less constant proportion of the number of butterflies present. The proportion seen is likely to vary according to species; some butterfly species are more conspicuous and thus more easily detected, whereas others are much less easy to see.
Site indices are only calculated at sites with sufficient monitoring visits throughout the season, or for targeted reduced effort surveys (timed observations, larval web counts and egg counts) where counts are generally obtained as close to the peak of the flight period as possible and are subsequently adjusted for the time of year and size of the site (area of suitable habitat type for a given species). Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) sites are thus excluded because they are based on very few visits from which accurate indices of abundance cannot currently be calculated. For transect sites a statistical model (a General Additive Model, 'GAM') is used to impute missing values and to calculate a site index. Each year most transect sites (over 90%) produce an index for at least one species and in recent years site indices are calculated for almost 1,500 sites across the UK.
Site indices are subsequently collated to contribute to the overall 'Collated Index' for each species, which are relative measures of the abundance of each species across a geographical area, for example, across the whole UK or at country level in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Individual site indices are important in informing conservation management as not all sites show the same patterns for each species and likely reflect a combination of local climate and habitat management at the site.
Although the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and Butterfly Conservation (BC) are responsible for the calculation and interpretation of site indices, the collection of the data used in its creation is ultimately reliant on a large volunteer community. The UKBMS is run by Butterfly Conservation (BC), the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), in partnership with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), and supported and steered by Forestry Commission (FC), Natural England(NE), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The UKBMS is indebted to all volunteers who contribute data to the scheme.
Publication date: 2016-08-24