Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Ask us!

Applied Research in Environmental Science - ENVI 201 - Kelly & Stander

Literature Review

A literature review summarizes and evaluates published research on a specific topic, sometimes within a specific time period. It may draw connections or show relationships between different studies and offer conclusions on the current thinking in the field.  


Sample paragraph from a literature review:

Butterflies appear to be declining faster in the United Kingdom, as 74% of 46 non-migratory butterflies restricted their distribution over 1970–1999 (Warren et al., 2001). Using a comprehensive database compiled by amateur collectors and scientists over a 29-year period in the entire British Isles, the authors showed that habitat specialists experienced the largest reductions in distributional area. Specialist and sedentary species not showing changes in abundance over 25 years had reduced their distribution on average by 15%. Other studies indicate that 41 out of 54 common butterflies had been declining since the 1970s, with 26% of species showing decreases over 40% of their range (Fox et al., 2006), while 13% of 10-km squares in the monitoring grid reported disappearance of butterfly species (Thomas et al., 2004). Although authors did not attempt to correlate the declines with specific drivers, the following combination of factors was suggested: habitat fragmentation and/or destruction, intensification of agriculture, including the increased usage of chemical fertiliser and pesticides, and perhaps over-collecting – although such practice has been greatly reduced by more environmental awareness. To minimise biodiversity losses among butterflies and moths, the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) was created, which compiles data on the abundance and distribution of all species across the country since 1976. An initial analysis of 50 species showed a large fluctuation in butterflies among years, with specialist species having declined by 34% nationally since the scheme was established; generalist species had declined in England (12%) but little (6%) or not at all in Scotland. Major declines occurred in forests and farmland regardless of the efforts to restore biodiversity from 2000 onwards (Brereton et al., 2011). A further analysis of 17 widespread and resident species of butterflies between 1984 and 2012 showed that abundance of all species decreased by 58% since the year 2000, while 15 species exhibited population declines at average annual rates between −0.8% and −6.7% (Gilburn et al., 2015). Thus, 41% of the species studied are threatened. Increasing summer temperatures had a marked positive effect on butterfly abundance, whereas none of the other climatic factors could explain the decrease in their populations. By contrast, the steepest declines occurred in areas with high proportions of farmland treated with neonicotinoid insecticides; indices for the 15 declining species showed negative associations with neonicotinoid usage.