Butterflies on the brink with Professor Roger Kitching

This week we co-hosted a special presentation with Barung Landcare and Professor Roger Kitching AM as part of the Sunshine Coast's Big Butterfly Count.

Professor Kitching is a rainforest ecologist with special expertise in the biology, conservation and management of invertebrate biodiversity. He recently led major projects in Queensland examining the response of biodiversity to projected climate change. He has research interests in forests from France to Borneo, Australia to Panama. Kitching is the author or co-author, editor or co-editor of 13 books on a range of ecological subjects, has edited or co-edited five themed special issues of journals, and has authored or co-authored over 265 refereed scientific Articles.

An undercurrent through all of Kitching’s scientific work has been his lifelong passion for butterflies and, latterly, moths. He edited the CSIRO Compendium The Biology of Australian Butterflies (1999) and is co- author, with Bert Orr of The Butterflies of Australia (Allen & Unwin 2010) described by one (anonymous) reviewer as ‘possibly the best butterfly book ever written’. He has been involved for many years in generating the scientific base for the conservation of Australian butterflies. 

You can watch the presentation and Q&A on YouTube. Roger described the taxonomy of butterflies and explored their ecology whilst highlighting some of the more rare species to be found here on the Sunshine Coast. We then explored the role of conservation and identified the biggest threats to butterfly populations - loss of habitat and the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture. Climate change is also having an impact on butterfly populations, with research showing that over the past 20 - 30 years species of butterflies have moved due to temperature changes, following the physiological preferences. In Australia, species are moving south in search of cooler temperatures. With the ongoing threat of climate change continually pushing species boundaries to their limits, this is pushing butterflies to the brink of their habitat limits. 

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