A new study has found that apart from the woods and countryside, Hong Kong’s numerous butterfly species also live in urban areas and can benefit from “nature corners” in urban parks These corners would be free disturbances such as insecticides and vegetation trimmings.

Here are the specifics of the study:

A new study by a team of University of Hong Kong ecologists has found the environmental conditions and designs of the city’s parks to be a crucial factor in determining whether butterflies show up, and what sort, adding impetus to raising the conservational value of these important urban habitats.

Factors such as temperature, floral density, abundance of nectar plants, canopy cover and plant cover were found to be important determinants for the formation of communities of common butterfly species in parks.

The presence of rare species however, was found to be less affected by environmental variables and more by “spatial” ones such as whether parks were close to other rare butterfly habitats that could disperse them to other parks.

Researcher Toby Tsang Pak-nok, who worked on the study, said the findings proved that apart from the woods and countryside, urban areas were also vital habitats for butterflies, and he emphasised the importance of retaining biodiversity in what were already limited urban green spaces.

“The quickest and best way is of course to set up more nature reserves for conservation, but other parts of society may feel development is needed too, so this is just not plausible,” Tsang said. “The best thing we can do then is maximise the conservation value of urban parks.”

“There are about 250 butterfly species just in Hong Kong, whereas in the entire United Kingdom there are only 60 species. We have a very, very rich diversity of life here,” said Dr Timothy Bonebrake, head of the university’s Global Change and Tropical Conservation Laboratory. “Butterflies are very sensitive to environmental change.”

The scientists recommended park managers set up “nature corners” for butterflies and other fauna in parks, free from human disturbances such as insecticide spraying and vegetation trimming.

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