Moth declines are most severe in broadleaf woodlands despite a net gain in habitat availability

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Blumgart, D., Botham, M. S., Menendez, R. and Bell, J. R. 2022. Moth declines are most severe in broadleaf woodlands despite a net gain in habitat availability. Insect Conservation and Diversity. 15 (5), pp. 496-509.

AuthorsBlumgart, D., Botham, M. S., Menendez, R. and Bell, J. R.

1. While agricultural intensification and habitat loss are cited as key drivers of moth decline, these alone cannot explain declines observed in UK woodlands – a habitat which has expanded in area since 1968.
2. We quantified how moth communities changed across habitats and regions and determined how species traits interacted with habitat in predicting moth abundance change. We hypothesised that, in woodlands, species more vulnerable to shading and browsing by deer (species specialising on forbs, shrubs and shade-intolerant plants) had declined more severely than other species, and that moth decline in woodlands was more severe at sites more susceptible to deer damage.
3. We modelled abundance, biomass, species richness and diversity from 1968 – 2016 and explored how these interacted with habitat and region. We also modelled the interaction between habitat and two moth species traits: larval feeding guild and shade-tolerance of hostplant.
4. Moth declines were consistently highest in broadleaf woodland. Abundance, biomass, species richness and diversity declined significantly by -51%, -52%, -14% and -15% in woodlands, respectively, compared to national trends of -34%, -39%, -1% (non-significant) and +10%. Declines were no greater in woodlands more susceptible to deer browsing damage. Traits-based analysis found no evidence that shading and intensive browsing by deer explained moth declines in woodland.
5. Moth decline was more severe in broadleaf woodlands than in intensively managed farmlands. We found no evidence that deer browsing or increased shading has driven these trends: the primary cause of the decline of moths in woodlands remains unclear.

KeywordsInsect decline; Moths; Biodiversity; Conservation; Ecology; Long-term trends; Broadleaf woodland; Woodland; Deer browsing
Year of Publication2022
JournalInsect Conservation and Diversity
Journal citation15 (5), pp. 496-509
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeThe Rothamsted Insect Survey - National Capability [2017-2022]
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Supplemental file
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online28 Apr 2022
Publication process dates
Accepted28 Mar 2022

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