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Moth biomass and diversity in coniferous plantation woodlands

Shewring, Mike P., Vaughan, Ian P. ORCID: and Thomas, Robert J. ORCID: 2022. Moth biomass and diversity in coniferous plantation woodlands. Forest Ecology and Management 505 , 119881. 10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119881

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Moths are a vital ecosystem component and key food source for many species, but have shown widespread and often severe declines. Multiple factors have been implicated in these declines, although the most important large-scale factors in the temperate zone are considered to be land use change and climate change. The majority of forest cover in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe is dominated by intensively managed plantation woodlands, and studies have shown reduced broadleaved woodland cover can negatively affect moth diversity and biomass. However, few studies have examined how open habitats within the plantation forest matrix, which often represent a large proportion of the total forest area, are utilised by moth species. Here, we aimed to determine: (1) how moth biomass in open habitats within plantation forests varies seasonally and in response to management; and (2) how species diversity and Welsh conservation priority (“Section 7”) species respond to management at multiple spatial scales. We sampled moth communities in open habitats within five coniferous plantation forests across Wales, using light traps deployed in areas that ranged from < 1 to > 20 years post-felling. We found a significant non-linear relationship between space, time and moth biomass, with a significant peak in biomass in the summer months (∼29th June) suggesting important phenological effects with associated implications for dependent species. Biomass was also strongly affected by time since felling, with older habitats in general supporting a higher moth biomass, although this was dependent on the seasonal variation in habitat ‘greenness’ and productivity, as measured by NDVI. We also found that the abundances of Welsh priority species responded positively to increased extents of open habitats of ages 1–10 years post felling, but the amount of recent clear felling (0 years post felling) in the surrounding landscape had a negative correlation with both abundance and diversity. We conclude that habitat, seasonality/ productivity and short-term weather variations play a key role in determining moth biomass, species diversity and the presence of Welsh priority moth species within managed coniferous plantation woodland. This means there is an opportunity for forest management practices to adopt measures that can not only enhance moth biomass productivity, in turn supporting insectivorous species such as European nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus, but also deliver wider ecosystem services through the provision of habitat matrices that support invertebrate species of conservation concern.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0378-1127
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 March 2022
Date of Acceptance: 17 November 2021
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2022 10:50

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