Of all the insects, butterflies are surely the most popular due to their wide range of colours, elegance and delicacy. They are not only a symbol of nature’s beauty but also by their presence indicators of the health and integrity of environmental habitats.
Over the last thirty years scientists have alerted us to the fact that human activities are causing a dramatic decline in world biodiversity. Butterflies too are rapidly declining and more so than in other groups such as birds or amphibians. Therefore, butterflies can be useful in defining quality of natural environments as well as climate changes.
Lepidoptera have been considered for decades as early warning bioindicators of environmental health. In fact, they have high sensitivity to pollutants, wide distribution, limited mobility (for example the Zygaenidae) and short life-cycles sensible to environmental changes. Moreover, butterflies can be easily observed in most habitats, from highest peaks to the cultivated plains.
Lepidopterists say that recently the majority of European butterflies are decreasing in numbers, threatened by destruction of their habitats, landscape fragmentation and climate changes.
For these reasons, I think the publication of this book, dedicated to the butterflies and burnets moths of the Alps, is very timely. In these pages is a complete report on each of the 281 species considered, which includes: distribution, habitat, altitudinal range, altitudinal zonation, flight period, host plants, myrmecophily, similar species, fore-wing length, larvae, pupae, cocoons and IUCN’s threatened status. The precision and exhaustivity of the data provided not only make this book an updated inventory of the butterflies of the alpine region, but also offer an important aid for conservation planning. Moreover, keys to the families and some genera, make this book an excellent guide for both beginners and more experienced naturalists. Another relevant use for this book is related to the identification of the butterfly species in biomonitoring programs and in the sustainable management of the Alpine Natura 2000 sites.
So, for all these reasons, I would like to thank Paolo Paolucci, the author of this remarkable work, for having chosen the World Biodiversity Association as editor of his book; I’m sure this volume will provide a window on the world of butterflies for researchers, the general public and in particular the younger generation, in the hands of whom rests the future of our planet.
Chairman of the World Biodiversity Association
There is hardly any other group of insects that has captured so much attention as the butterflies and moths. And quite rightfully so! Their beauty, liveliness and variety makes them one of the most recognizable elements of nature. They are harbingers of spring and accompany us right through summer and into the late autumn days. They are enjoyed by casual observers as well as a growing number of butterfly lovers who dedicate their free time or even careers observing, photographing, researching, and documenting them in nature. These activities have now largely surpassed the formerly popular collecting, although scientifically managed collections are still indispensable when it comes to taxonomic studies.
In recent decades, butterflies and moths have been recognized as biodiversity indicators, meaning that their well-being indicates a stabile healthy environment for majority of other terrestrial animals and plants. However, strong declines in distribution and abundance of butterflies have been recorded throughout Europe. The main reasons for the negative trend are habitat loss and fragmentation caused by increasing human interference. In butterflies and burnets in particular, abandonment of traditional farming is another increasingly important factor, as overgrown meadows gradually become unsuitable for many specialist grassland species.
Alps, the backbone of Europe, are the largest mountainous landscape in central Europe. Due to rugged terrain and high altitudes this region largely escaped the intensive farming and urbanization, therefore it represents one of the most important reservoirs of butterfly diversity on the Continent. Many of them are confined to the Alps, or are extremely rare elsewhere. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats from hot valleys influenced by the neighborhood of the Mediterranean to the tops of the highest peaks where rocks and ice dominate the landscape.
This great butterfly diversity is well captured in the illustrations of this guide and together with identification keys provide all essential information for identification of
the species present in the Alps. Rough distribution maps and ecological parameters provide additional guidance which should motivate butterfly enthusiasts to visit this particularly rich region. Brunets are a logical and useful extension of this book, as they commonly fly together with butterflies and are easily approachable and recognizable.
The guide should serve as motivation for enjoying nature and these fragile and rapidly vanishing creatures.
Society for the Conservation and Study of Lepidoptera in Slovenia