Since June 2019, A Rocha is collecting data for the ABLE project, monitoring butterfly’s species in order to improve conservation measures. The project will use the butterflies to indicate the health of Europe’s environment. The responsible for this project in Portugal is Tagis (Conservation Centre of the Butterflies in Portugal – visit here www.tagis .pt – http://www.tagis.pt/homepage.html).
To identify butterflies, it is a very interesting process, initially it is important to catch them to be able to see the wing pattern, which is sometimes not possible when they are flying around. Field work experience is essential, and it is never possible to identify all the species. People helping with the project are constantly learning, also for that reason it is an amazing project.
The methodology of the project is a transect and the monitoring is done every week, if the weather conditions are good (temperature over 13° C and not strong wind). In the Algarve this is possible almost all year. A transect is a path along which one counts and records occurrences of the species, it requires the observer to move along the same designated path to do this.
Between June 2019 and June 2020 we made 29 visits and observed around 24 species of butterflies, of 5 different Families (Papiliionidae, Pieriidae, Nymphaliidae, Lycaeniidae and Hesperiidae). The Hesperiidae Family was the less abundant in numbers and diversity with only 3 species recorded while the Pieriidae Family was the most abundant in number of species recorded. The most abundant species were: Clouded yellow (Colias crocea), Large white (Pieris brassicae), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Small white (Pieris rapae), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) and Spanish Marbled white (Melanargia ines). The most common specie was Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) recorded in 82 % of all the visits.
April and May we had months with the higher number of individuals and the higher number of species. These are the spring months with a lot of diversity of flowers and plants which means a lot of food availability.
Species have different flight periods, some are very abundant for a certain period, and are absent the rest of the time, like Spanish Marbled White (Melanargia ines); others can be present for several months, like the Clouded yellow (Colias crocea) (see graphic ).