The violet copper, tiny but mighty! Review on 35 years of monitoring and biotope management in Luxembourg
Mireille Molitor & Michelle Clemens
Lycaena helle is classified as endangered on the EU Red List and is on the appendix II and IV of the habitat’s directive. It serves as an umbrella species of mountainous wetlands. Despite its small size, the blue shimmer of its wings shines between the pink inflorescence of its host plant Polygonum bistorta and Luxembourg has to take its responsibility to protect this rare glacial relict butterfly.
Monitoring in Luxembourg has started with its rediscovery in 1976 in Hachiville. It was close to the heart of M. Meyer, the founder of the Groupe de Travail, assembling the youth interested in insects. The group got more and more dynamic throughout the 80’s with the appearance of the provisional Atlas, the magazine Päiperlek and numerous meetings and excursions. M. Meyer’s interest in the species led eventually to the description of the morphologically distinct population of the Ardennes: L. helle arduinnae (1980).
The first restoration of wet valleys in the Luxembourgish Ardennes, by removal of non-indigenous spruce forests carried out by n&ë HfN and ANF in the 90’s, is linked to the management recommendations of Colling & Meyer (Bulletin SNL, 1986). It took almost 20 more years until the reopening of the valleys was more consequently pursued by n&ë with 2 INTERREG projects and 2 LIFE projects Loutre & Eislek.
The Life Eislek project (2012-17) is the first Luxemburgish management and restoration programme specially dedicated to L. helle. The research of Philippe Goffart was hereby of great help. With the project, the first comprehensive monitoring of L. helle has been carried out.
In 2014, the combined efforts of theoretical and practical conservationist from all over Europe, amongst them M. Meyer, allowed the publication of Jewels in the Mist, a synopsis on L. helle. The next step is the realisation of an Atlas des papillons, an ambitious project planned by LIST.