A NEW scheme could help save butterflies on Portland, whose numbers are on the decline.

A conservation project by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is vying for funding from the Tesco Bags of Help scheme and could be awarded up to £2,000 – depending on the customer vote.

Portland’s limestone grasslands and habitats are home to over half of Britain’s 57 butterfly species, including the rare ‘Cretaceous’ silver studded blue and the Adonis Blue.

Nevertheless, populations which once thrived in the island’s quarry nature reserves have declined over the last 50 years or so, according to DTW, due to scrub growing over the bare limestone patches that warm up early in the season where caterpillars feed.

It is now hoped that a community project to improve habitats and local awareness could help boost butterfly numbers.

The work would involve removing scrub and bramble to restore flower habitats, as well as adding new signage to improve awareness about butterfly conservation.

Previous projects carried out by DWT and Butterfly Conservation have shown it is possible to reverse the decline, and immediate positive effects were noted as a result.

A spokesman for Dorset Wildlife Trust said: “This project will use existing partnerships and expertise to ensure that Portland’s special butterflies continue to thrive by restoring their habitat and enabling people to find out more about them.

“Work will be undertaken at quarry nature reserves, carried out by DWT-led volunteer groups and by specialist local contractors where necessary.

“The project will help DWT provide more opportunities for people to participate in outdoor activities, such as wildlife watching and volunteering, that contribute to personal health and wellbeing, and support people so they can actively make a difference to their local natural environment.”

Customers at Tesco can vote for their favourite scheme using a blue token each time they shop.

The scheme with the highest votes will be awarded £2,000, the second placed scheme £1,000 and the third, £500. Voting closes on Tuesday March 31.

You can take part in voting at several branches across Weymouth and Portland; these include Tesco Metro, Lodmoor Hill Express, Lanehouse Express and Portland Superstore.