Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 1–2, pp 121–128 | Cite as

Assessing conservation status and trends for the world’s butterflies: the Sampled Red List Index approach

  • Owen T. Lewis
  • Michael J. M. Senior
Original Paper


Red List Indices provide a method for assessing global trends in species’ conservation status, and for monitoring progress towards achieving conservation targets (for example, commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity). Red List Indices are based on categorization of taxa in terms of their threat status using information on, for example, current and projected abundances, distributions, and threats. Global assessments have now been undertaken for a suite of well-known vertebrate taxa. However, highly diverse invertebrate taxa are currently very poorly represented in such assessments, and there is a danger that their threats and their utility as biodiversity indicators will be overlooked. Unlike most invertebrates, butterflies are relatively well-known globally. We describe ongoing efforts to incorporate butterflies into the Red List Index process. Because of high species richness (approximately 15,000 Papilionoidea globally) a comprehensive assessment is not feasible. Instead, we apply a ‘Sampled Red List Index’ approach which draws on a subset of 1,500 focal taxa. We illustrate the process and the challenges (particularly taxonomic issues and issues of data deficiency) using a variety of case studies. The information provided should be relevant to other researchers seeking to apply the Red List Index approach to invertebrates and other diverse but poorly studied taxa.


Africa Extinction Global Indicator Lepidoptera Red List Index Monitoring 



Ben Collen, Torben Larsen and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on the manuscript. Mala Ram and Nadia Dewhurst have provided help and support throughout the SRLI process. We are particularly grateful to Torben Larsen whose encyclopedic knowledge of African (and other) butterflies has made the SRLI process much less daunting, and whose data were used for the case studies illustrated here. We also thank the numerous lepidopterists who have contributed to initiating the butterfly SRLI, in particular George Beccaloni, Blanca Huertas, Jim Mallet, Chris Muller, John Tennent and Keith Willmott. Helen Chadburn, Chris Gröbler, Chris Jeffs, Emily Lloyd, Ed Parker, Eleanor Slade, Chun Siew, Bee Smith and Chun Yuen Wong provided invaluable research assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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