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Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation- Glasgow & South West Scotland Branch

Butterfly Transects

What is a transect?
Why do a transect?
How many there are in SW Scotland and Nationally?
What happens to the data?
An example of recent importance of the data
How do I setup a new transect?

What is a transect?

Butterfly transects are a way of monitoring trends in butterfly populations at a local (site), regional or national level. The method was devised in 1973 by the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, and involves walking a fixed route across a site each week between April and September whilst counting the number of individuals of each butterfly species. In recent years the network of CEH transects has been merged with the network of 'independent' transects co-ordinated by Butterfly Conservation (which can be set up by anyone) This joint transect network is called the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

Why do a transect?

The information gained from transect monitoring is invaluable, especially if the same transect is walked for many years. When data are brought together from a large number of sites, regional and national indices can be generated. The key value of such annual monitoring is that it provides early warnings of species decline, at a time when conservation action can be most effective and before species are lost from whole sites and areas.

Transects not only provide accurate assessments of how each species is doing every year, but enable us to investigate many questions about butterfly ecology and how habitat management and the weather affect populations.

Grace Martin - Greenhead Moss
Transect Walker:  Grace Martin - Greenhead Moss
Photograph by Julie Stoneman

How many there are in SW Scotland and Nationally?

The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme assesses changes in butterfly abundance across a network of over 750 sites, by a combination of weekly 'transect counts' and single visit 'timed' counts. There are currently over 143 active transects in Scotland, of which 46 are within the South West Scotland branch area.

What happens to the data?

Data from transects is inputted into free Transect Recorder software (you can download this free at from the main Butterfly Conservation website). For recorders without access to a computer, completed recording forms should be sent to Butterfly Conservation Scotland in Stirling directly for inputting.

Once the data are verified, they are sent to the main database at Butterfly Conservation's head quarters in Dorset to be collated with all independent transects in the UK. This is an invaluable source of information which can be used for a variety of purposes.

An example of recent importance of the data

Data from butterfly transects form a huge repository of information for all kinds of research. For example, butterfly transect data has been used to assess whether government grant-aided conservation management, undertaken through agri-environment schemes, are having a positive effect on butterfly populations. Initial results have shown that scheme management is improving conditions for short and medium turf butterfly species at the expense of non-target rank grass/scrub species and creating more favourable habitats for specialist grassland wildlife.

How do I setup a new transect?

To set up a new transect please contact Butterfly Conservation Scotland who will send you the methodologies and recording forms you will need to start a new transect, and discuss any concerns you may have.

Tel: 01786 447753
Website: Butterfly Conservation Scotland

or Contact your Local Transect Coordinator (if your area has one).

VC 72, 73 and 74 >> Dumfries-shire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire
Andy Riches

VC76 >> Inverclyde and Renfrewshire
Neil Gregory
32 Oldhall Drive
PA13 4RF
01505 874275

VC77 >> Lanarkshire (including Glasgow)
Louisa Maddison
Countryside Ranger
Countryside & Greenspace Service Community & Enterprise Resources
South Lanarkshire Council
Calderglen Country Park
East Kilbride
G75 0QZ
tel: 01355 236 644

VC86, VC98, VC100 >> Stirlingshire, Argyll and Clyde Isles
Andrew Masterman
155 Quebec Drive
East Kilbride
G75 8BA

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Red Admiral
Red Admiral
Vanessa atalanta
Photograph: Jim Asher
Visit the UK Transect Discussion Group for further information and help . . .
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