BUTTERFLIES: Essential to Ecosystems | Sunday Observer
Monthly lecture on September 21

BUTTERFLIES: Essential to Ecosystems

10 September, 2023

Nations Trust WNPS Monthly Lecture, Butterflies: Essential to Ecosystems will be delivered by Dr. Himesh Jayasinghe on September 21, 2023 at the Jasmine Hall, BMICH.

Butterflies, of silky wing and myriad colour, flitting from flower to flower in garden or forest glade, are truly one of the natural wonders of this island. However, they are often taken for granted and rarely given the attention they should, apart from aesthetic admiration of their beauty. Yet, these fragile insects play a vital role in the balance of nature.

Evidence seems to suggest that butterflies and flowering plants evolved together, over 100 million years or more, the former from moths and the latter from angiosperms, seed producing plants, from which they diverged at an even greater time before. Both kinds survived major extinction events but, today, face annihilation in what is termed the Holocene Extinction; a continuing event mainly caused by human activity. Unless strong, and lasting, conservation measures are taken, and soon, they too may join their predecessors to add to sad entry in the fossil records.

Keeping them safe in Sri Lanka

Dr Himesh Jayasinghe

Sri Lanka hosts 248 known species of butterflies, 31 of which are endemic. Due to their strong interdependence with flowering plants, they are essential for the healthy ecosystem of the island, contributing to pollination, acting as indicators of environmental health, supporting food webs, and enriching biodiversity.

Efforts to protect butterflies invariably align with broader conservation goals and can have positive effects throughout ecosystems. If butterflies, and bees, disappear, so will the multitude of flowering plants and, with them, much of agriculture and human food sources.

To develop a greater understanding of the importance of this interdependence between plant and insect, especially here in Sri Lanka, the following need further clarification:

Why do butterflies need plants?

What types of plants do butterflies need?

What are the benefits that plants receive from butterflies?

Do butterflies damage plants?

Why do some flowering plants not attract butterflies for pollination?

Expert views

Dr. Himesh Jayasinghe is currently a Research Assistant (Plant taxonomy and Conservation) at the National Institute of Fundamental Studies. A Founder Member, and first President, of the Butterfly Conservation Society of Sri Lanka, he also holds aPhD in Plant Taxonomy from the Faculty of Science, University of Colombo. He is well qualified to explain the intricate relationships that exist between butterflies and plants, and how that contributes to the welfare of the ecosystem, especially here in Sri Lanka.

An all-rounder with active participation in other fields of conservation, Dr. Jayasinghe is also an accomplished photographer, is a member of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS), and has acted as a consultant to the Society on several projects.

The monthly lecture of the WNPS is supported by the Nations Trust Bank. It is open to both members and non-members. Entrance is free.