Garden and landscape-scale correlates of moths of differing conservation status: Significant effects of urbanization and habitat diversity

Adam J. Bates, Jonathan Sadler, Dave Grundy, Norman Lowe, George Davis, David Baker, Malcolm Bridge, Roger Freestone, David Gardner, Chris Gibson, Robin Hemming, Stephen Howarth, Steve Orridge, Mark Shaw, Tom Tams, Heather Young, Jeff Ollerton (Editor)

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39 Citations (Scopus)
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Moths are abundant and ubiquitous in vegetated terrestrial environments and are pollinators, important herbivores of wild plants, and food for birds, bats and rodents. In recent years, many once abundant and widespread species have shown sharp declines that have been cited by some as indicative of a widespread insect biodiversity crisis. Likely causes of these declines include agricultural intensification, light pollution, climate change, and urbanization; however, the real underlying cause(s) is still open to conjecture. We used data collected from the citizen science Garden Moth Scheme (GMS) to explore the spatial association between the abundance of 195 widespread British species of moth, and garden habitat and landscape features, to see if spatial habitat and landscape associations varied for species of differing conservation status. We found that associations with habitat and landscape composition were species-specific, but that there were consistent trends in species richness and total moth abundance. Gardens with more diverse and extensive microhabitats were associated with higher species richness and moth abundance; gardens near to the coast were associated with higher richness and moth abundance; and gardens in more urbanized locations were associated with lower species richness and moth abundance. The same trends were also found for species classified as increasing, declining and vulnerable under IUCN (World Conservation Union) criteria. However, vulnerable species were more strongly negatively affected by urbanization than increasing species. Two hypotheses are proposed to explain this observation: (1) that the underlying factors causing declines in vulnerable species (e.g., possibilities include fragmentation, habitat deterioration, agrochemical pollution) across Britain are the same in urban areas, but that these deleterious effects are more intense in urban areas; and/or (2) that urban areas can act as ecological traps for some vulnerable species of moth, the light drawing them in from the surrounding landscape into sub-optimal urban habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere86925
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Medicine


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