The Action Plan for Australian Butterflies
D.P.A. Sands, T.R. New
Environment Australia, October 2002
ISBN 0 6425 4849 8
About the publication
The Australian butterflies (comprising a total 654 specific and subspecific taxa) are evaluated for conservation need, and the conservation status of all taxa previously claimed to be of significance is reviewed. Synopses are given for 220 taxa, identifying threatening processes and threatened ecological communities for all species and subspecies deemed to be threatened. Recovery outlines are presented for all taxa for which conservation action is needed. A 'master list' of all Australian butterflies summarises the history of conservation concerns for each, including species from outlying Australian islands. The taxonomic arrangement adopted for subspecies is that by Common and Waterhouse (1981).
One hundred and five taxa are listed as of conservation interest in Australia in Appendices 1 and 2. Twenty-six (Hesperiidae 8, Nymphalidae 5, Lycaenidae 13) are 'threatened' (Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable) at National or state level; 86 taxa (Hesperiidae 24, Papilionidae 3, Pieridae 2, Nymphalidae 18, Lycaenidae 39) are Lower Risk, Data Deficient or threatened at 'municipal' level.
Seven taxa (Hesperiidae 2, Nymphalidae 1, Lycaenidae 4) appear on both these lists, reflecting different assessments at National and state levels. The largest single category Nationally, is Data Deficient (43 taxa), reflecting the difficulties of assessing threats to taxa known from few individuals and, in some cases of uncertain residential status and from single localities. In this Action Plan it was not possible to address the conservation significance of some taxa recently described, including Candalides hyacinthus gilesi Williams and Bollam (Williams and Bollam 2001), Ogyris otanes sublustris Williams and Hay and Ogyris otanes arcana Williams and Hay (Williams and Hay 2001).
Background information is given on the development of butterfly conservation. The difficulties of applying the IUCN (1994) criteria to butterflies (because of lack of quantitative data on population fluctuations and structures) are discussed and an alternative workable system is proposed. Note that the categories, although following IUCN names for ranking, differ substantially in definition from conventional IUCN categorisation, as discussed in the text. The 'listing' process for taxa is recognised as a provisional step - requiring regular revision to add or remove species considered to be threatened, as new information or recovery actions affect the determined status. The problems with listing taxa are discussed in terms of 'prohibition of take', and the importance of listing being a prelude to de-listing taxa as 'rehabilitated' (taxa that have responded adequately to recovery actions) is emphasised.
A major need in promoting butterfly conservation is to foster effective cooperation between lepidopterists as the major contributors to original knowledge of butterfly biology and distribution, and the conservation agencies. This necessitates the establishment of more effective communication between these parties; a code of conduct is proposed for discussion to facilitate this important step. The Butterfly Action Plan - differs from some others by relying very substantially on information obtained by non-professional entomologists having first-hand experience with the taxa, and it recognises that the efforts, goodwill and interest of these people are integral to pursuing the conservation of butterflies in the future.