By Letters

Patrick Barkham (Report sounds a ‘final warning bell’ over vanishing butterflies, 15 December) describes the decline of butterfly populations over the last 40 years. The reason we had so many species in the first place is that natural landscapes are non-uniform, with many distinct ecological niches in which unique species can evolve and thrive. Any move to increase the uniformity of farmland will therefore result in a loss of species. Over the last 40 years, 60% of the UK’s farms have gone out of business and, according to the RSPB, so have 60% of farmland birds. The low price of milk now means that a UK dairy farm is going out of business every day, while the government does nothing or, worse, enforces greater uniformity on what farmers can do. In the 70s, agricultural colleges taught farm managers of the importance of the diversity of crops and the use of livestock to enrich crop rotation, but in the 80s many were closed. Since then, farmers have been forced to concentrate on economic survival, rather than care of their land. Climate change is an aggravating factor, and pesticides are nasty (I have only bought one litre in 15 years), although they do produce the cheap food that the public wants. Pesticides are one of many factors that are damaging our wildlife. All factors must be considered if butterflies are to be saved, but there are no easy solutions to this problem.
Huw Jones
St Clears, Carmarthenshire

• It’s easy and convenient to point the finger of blame for declining butterfly populations at pesticides and intensive farming. Blaming pesticides is easy, but not necessarily correct, which is why I agree with Chris Packham’s call for more research to find out exactly what is causing these declines.