Plenary panel: Species

Species status, threats and biotop status

Pawel Adamski, Institute of Nature Conservation at Polish Academy of Science

The 2022 conference for the LIFE Apollo2020 project kick-started with an overview of the current status, threats and habitat status of the Apollo butterfly within Europe.

Parnassius apollo is a very unique species, both in terms of morphology/physiology and its genetic make-up. This alone makes it valuable to conserve, as losing one population means losing a whole set of possible unique genes. In addition to that it is also what scientists call an “umbrella species”, a species whose conservation also benefits other species, or the entire ecosystem. The Apollo butterfly lives in alpine meadows and pastures in Europe, a habitat that is often endangered itself, and also home to threatened insects or plants. Protecting the Apollo butterfly in these areas, will therefore also likely benefit the protection of other species. Unlike other insects or plants that may be less visible and more difficult to monitor, the Apollo has a very positive public image and it is fairly easy to engage the public in its monitoring and conservation. It can also act as a bioindicator for the health of the ecosystem and its species.

Currently, Apollo is threatened by predation, illegal collection of specimens, a decline in their host plant, pesticides, genetic erosion related to habitat and population fragmentation and also by long term climatic changes and air pollution.

For a continued healthy population of Apollo butterflies in central Europe, the project aims to conserve the unique diversity of this species, restore populations at identified sites and maintain or restore self-sustaining local populations in good condition habitat.

Genetics of Parnassius apollo and experiences for other species

Gerard Talavera, Botanical Institute of Barcelona (CSIC)

In the second session of the day, Gerard Talavera from the Institut Botànic de Barcelona dove deep into conservation genetics, their general use for rescuing endangered species, and how this knowledge can be utilized for the conservation of Parnassius apollo in central Europe.

In conservation, the study of genetics can help to recover vulnerable or locally extinct species, eradicate invasives, aid the genetic management of populations and facilitate their adaptation to quick environmental changes. In the case of Parnassius apollo, some populations have already gone extinct and there is limited knowledge on the genetic make-up of the species. So further studies on this are clearly needed, to understand the species’ demographics, effective population size or how high inbreeding rates are within different populations. This then allows so-called “genetic rescue”, where genetically unique individuals are added to a population. However, it is important to notice that care must be taken with this, as outbreeding depression and mis-adaptations can occur.

Gerard left the audience with a few key messages, including:

  • Prevention is better than cure: The aim should be to stop populations from becoming vulnerable/extinct in the first place instead of trying to rescue it afterwards. Vulnerability to many problems increases with decreasing population size.
  • Genetic assessments and monitoring, both on a demographic and genetic level, are important to fully understand the species you are trying to conserve.·   In all cases, species-specific information and awareness of all case factors (e.g. costs) are needed for effective conservation measures.

Breeding of Parnassius apollo

The breeding experts of the LIFE Apollo2020 project presented their state of work and challenges they are facing.

#followapollo and the efforts of our team! Combined skills in breeding, conservation of habitats, research, environmental education, and project management constitute a great combination for the success of our LIFE project

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest news on butterfly conservation!