Aerial network of rooftop habitats gets underway in Edinburgh

A pioneering conservation project to create an aerial network of rooftop habitats for Scotland's butterflies got off the ground in Edinburgh last week.

Credit: Iain Cowe
Credit: Iain Cowe
Glenmorangie’s headquarters and the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood will lead the project in the capital providing new homes for Edinburgh’s once elusive butterfly, The Northern Brown Argus, as well as other butterfly species.
A ‘Square Metre for Butterflies’ is a partnership between the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and Butterfly Conservation Scotland. The aim of the joint project is to plant patches of common rock rose (Helianthemum nummularium)- the favourite food of the butterfly caterpillars - on green roofs surrounding Arthur’s Seat and further afield to encourage the existing population in the Royal Park to expand and colonise in the newly created habitats.
The Northern Brown Argus is Edinburgh’s butterfly. For years it existed on Arthur’s Seat with Scottish butterfly watchers in the 1700’s assuming it was just a slightly different version of the Brown Argus which it closely resembles. But, in 1793, closer inspection revealed it was a completely new species.
After its discovery the Northern Brown Argus became a highly prized addition for collectors.
It disappeared by 1869 as a result of over-zealous collecting and land use changes at Holyrood, including the building of a road through the last remaining population strongholds of the species.
In 2005, the species was rediscovered at Holyrood and the population has continued to increase year on year.
Leonie Alexander, urban biodiversity project officer at RBGE, said: "We are creating the network of green roofs across Edinburgh to encourage the population of Northern Brown Argus to expand into new areas. Green roofs are perfect because the butterfly is usually found living at height and these roofs will provide warmth, food and shelter in the city.
"We are also hoping to attract at least two other species, small copper butterflies and blue butterflies, by providing plants that caterpillars will feed on. The project will be closely monitored so we will know how successful it is and what species are attracted to the green roofs.’’
Anthony McCluskey, urban butterfly project officer with Butterfly Conservation Scotland, said: "It’s remarkable that this scarce species lives so close to the city. We’re excited to be welcoming Edinburgh’s butterfly back to the city centre, and hope that it inspires people to make more space for these beautiful creatures.
"Anyone can attract butterflies to their garden and you don’t need a green roof to do it, a simple window box full of nectar-rich plants can help butterflies on their way.’’
Ian Mackenzie, living landscape programmes manager at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: "Green roofs are launch pads for all kinds of butterflies and wildlife to make connections across the city. Using the ‘Square Metre for Butterflies’ project to boost these connections will show how we can build nature into our future plans.
"For the health and wellbeing of our city we need projects like this that put nature at its heart."
Hamish Torrie, corporate social responsibility director for Glenmorangie said: "Glenmorangie has a long-standing commitment to the natural environment across all of our sites and we are delighted to support this initiative."
#Meanwhile furniture created by some of Scotland’s leading craftsmen from trees that were destroyed at RBGE during violent storms in 2012, is to go on show in an exhibition until 26 May.
After the Storm is a RBGE project which focuses on regeneration, recovery and resilience following the destruction caused by Cyclone Andrea when she ripped through the garden on 3 January 2012 with winds exceeding 100 miles per hour. The garden lost 34 trees in the storm.
Five years on RBGE will be commemorating the dramatic event with an exhibition which includes 14 pieces of furniture made from wood from storm-damaged trees.

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