At a high alpine lake here, researchers with clipboards and pens are conducting painstaking surveys that may be essential for saving butterflies and other insects from extinction.
“Someone has to stand up for the little guy,” Elise Willcox, 29, said on a recent morning as she hiked around it. She was scanning intently — “eyes attuned to anything flying around” — for the fluttering bright wings of wood nymphs, fritillaries, and the Rocky Mountain Parnassian.
“If invertebrates disappear, that’s a big problem for us humans.”
These counts coordinated by the Colorado-based Butterfly Pavilion are part of widening international efforts to deploy a sort of collective radar — beyond what government wildlife agencies do — and monitor insect species declines. A growing body of scientific evidence shows bugs worldwide are decreasing in abundance and diversity, prompting warnings of an “insect apocalypse.”
Scientists estimate 40% of known species are declining and hypothesize that losses could trigger large-scale ecological collapse. Insects pollinate crops, recycle nutrients, aerate soil and provide the essential base protein in food chains.
Butterfly Pavilion officials aspire to avert a collapse. They’re expanding from their current zoo into a new $55 million, 81,000-square-feet facility north of Denver — to be the world’s largest stand-alone invertebrate zoo and hub for research and habitat recovery. They’ve launched projects on three continents. And they’re teaming with developers to create a model 1,200-acre insect-friendly mini-city “for people to live surrounded by life” in Broomfield.
— Full story via Bruce Finley, The Denver Post
Bug apocalypse? Inside a Colorado-based campaign to save insects from extinction — and avert ecological collapse
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