Flash News


Researchers alert: Resorts and indiscriminate construction in coastal areas are exterminating butterflies and similar species

Researchers alert: Resorts and indiscriminate construction in coastal areas are
Yellow, black, red and bright blue, Aleksanor butterflies once fluttered in abundance on the flowery slopes of southwestern Albania. Now, like many similar species, scientists say they are disappearing due to human impacts, including climate change.

Increasingly absent from the scenic areas of Zvrnec, the Aleksanor is one of 58 of the Balkan country's 207 butterfly species that researchers say are at risk.

"Sensitive to changes, they are a true reflection of the conditions of the ecosystem where they live", said Anila Paparisto, entomologist at the University of Tirana.

In Zvërnec, Paparisto leads a team of researchers and students working to identify the country's remaining butterfly species along with those that are now extinct.

Numerous scientific studies have measured the impact of climate change on butterfly populations, although researchers cite other environmental factors as well.

They blame a combination of rapid urbanization, pesticides and warming temperatures for the decline.

"Human activity and climate change have had major impacts on nature, " said biology student Fjona Skenderi, who was helping to conduct research in Zvrnec.

"It is a disaster characterized by climatic disruptions, an early spring and extremely high temperatures in January and February," explained Hila, who is also a passionate collector and oversees a butterfly museum in Divjaka.

"This encouraged the eggs to hatch and the butterfly larvae to grow, but in April the temperatures were too low" for them to survive, he added.

The "butterfly effect"
The decline of butterflies also affects other species.

"It will affect the entire food chain and biodiversity, which is also essential for humans, " Paparisto said.

Like large parts of Albania, the coastal areas near Zvërnec are increasingly filled with resorts and apartment blocks, built with little oversight.

Scientists say rapid urbanization in the area, along with overfishing and climate change, have also played a role in the dramatic decline in migratory bird populations.

And while some butterfly populations are in decline, other similar species are thriving—to the detriment of the environment.

The arrival of a non-native moth through imports of ornamental plants from China has destroyed more than 80 percent of the clay forests in Albania since 2019, according to experts.

"It is very aggressive, it can reproduce three to four times a year and it is a real disaster that reduces entire areas to nothing," said forest engineer Avdulla Diku.

With their distinctive neon green and black bodies, the larvae are easily spotted as they cling to the leaves and stems of the boxwood.

On the road along Lake Ohrid to Pogradec in northwest Albania, once vibrant green rows of boxwoods have turned into husks after being devoured by moth larvae.

"It is a strong reminder of the fragility and delicate balance of the environment we live in," said Sylvain Cuvelier, an entomological researcher who co-authored the first Albanian butterfly atlas.

"It is clearly urgent to join our efforts to find solutions, to deeply rethink our use of natural resources and the way forward for the protection and restoration of our environment. "/ Translated by  phys.org

Latest news