Floral enhancement of arable field margins increases moth abundance and diversity

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Blumgart, D., Botham, M. S., Menendez, R. and Bell, J. R. 2023. Floral enhancement of arable field margins increases moth abundance and diversity. Journal of Insect Conservation. 27, pp. 455-465. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-023-00469-9

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

Moth populations have declined across large parts of north-western Europe since the mid-20th century due, in part, to agricultural intensification. Agri-environment schemes (AES) are widely implemented across Europe to protect biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. Grass field margins enriched with wildflowers typically out-perform grass-only margins in terms of increasing insect abundance and diversity. However, the effect of wildflower enrichment on moths remains largely unstudied. Here, the relative importance of larval hostplants and nectar resources for adult moths within AES field margins are investigated. Two treatments and a control were compared: (i) a plain grass mix, the control, (ii) a grass mix enriched with only moth-pollinated flowers, and (iii) a grass mix enriched with 13 wildflower species. Abundance, species richness and Shannon diversity were up to 1.4, 1.8 and 3.5 times higher, respectively, in the wildflower treatment compared to plain grass. The difference in diversity between treatments became greater in the second year. There was no difference in total abundance, richness or diversity between the plain grass treatment and grass enriched with moth-pollinated flowers. The increase in abundance and diversity in the wildflower treatment was due primarily to the provision of larval hostplants, with nectar provision playing a smaller role. The relative abundance of species whose larval hostplants included sown wildflowers increased in the second year, suggesting colonisation of the new habitat.

Implications for insect conservation.

We show that, at the farm scale, moth diversity can be greatly enhanced and abundance moderately enhanced by sowing diverse wildflower margins, providing these insects with both larval hostplants and floral resources, compared to grass-only margins.

KeywordsAgri-environment scheme; Agro-ecology; Field margins; Floral resources; Insect conservation; Moth conservation; Nectar resources
Year of Publication2023
JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
Journal citation27, pp. 455-465
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-023-00469-9
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
National Environmental Research Council
Funder project or codeThe Rothamsted Insect Survey - National Capability [2017-2022]
Envision DTP
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online23 Mar 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted21 Feb 2023

Permalink - https://repository.rothamsted.ac.uk/item/98v7z/floral-enhancement-of-arable-field-margins-increases-moth-abundance-and-diversity

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