Science & Environment

Conservation concern for UK insects

Tansy beetle Image copyright Buglife
Image caption The tansy beetle was once widespread in the UK but is now rare

More than 30 British insect species have been newly classified as in danger of extinction, due to pollution and habitat loss.

Members of two groups of insects have been placed on the official "red list" of endangered species.

Research showed 35 out of 283 species of leaf beetle were of concern to conservationists.

Some stoneflies are also at risk, according to a project to map Britain's insect life.

Leaf beetles feed on the leaves of specific plants in specific habitats.

The tansy beetle, for example, eats a herb known as tansy, and is found only in two areas of the UK - on the banks of the river Ouse in York and at Wicken Fen in East Anglia.

Another leaf beetle, the ten-spotted pot beetle, feeds on willow in lowland bogs.

Three species of leaf beetle have already become extinct in Britain in the last 100 years, while seven are considered critically endangered, according to an analysis by the government agency Natural England in collaboration with the invertebrate charity Buglife.

Another 35 have been placed on the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and are considered critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.

Aquatic insect

Stoneflies are found in fresh water, where they are among the largest invertebrates.

They are particularly sensitive to pollution of rivers and streams.

Out of 34 species in the UK, one is already extinct, one is vulnerable to extinction and another is critically endangered.

Image copyright David Pryce, Buglife
Image caption Stoneflies are indicators of the health of rivers and streams

Steve Falk of Buglife said: "The recently published State of Nature report showed that at least two out of three species of British wildlife are declining, and we know that many species of invertebrate have already become extinct in Britain.

"These reports will put a strong spotlight on those species that will become extinct over the next few decades unless we take positive action and try to reduce the many threats facing them."

The two new reports are part of the Species Status Assessment to identify conservation priorities in the UK.

Monitoring insects such as leaf beetles can be used to assess the health of the natural world.

Jon Webb, senior entomologist at Natural England, said: "These reviews further build on our knowledge of the status of these species, helping us to focus our attention on managing our protected sites appropriately to support those most in need."

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