New paper – Trends and indicators for quantifying moth abundance and occupancy in Scotland

Byron Morgan and Emily Dennis have had a paper published in Journal of Insect Conservation.

The full paper can be accessed here.

Trends and indicators for quantifying moth abundance and occupancy in Scotland

E. B. Dennis, T. M. Brereton, B. J. T. Morgan, R. Fox, C. R. Shortall, T. Prescott, S. Foster

Moths form an important part of Scotland’s biodiversity and an up-to-date assessment of their status is needed given their value as a diverse and species-rich taxon, with various ecosystem roles, and the known decline of moths within Britain. We use long-term citizen-science data to produce species-level trends and multi-species indicators for moths in Scotland, to assess population (abundance) and distribution (occupancy) changes. Abundance trends for moths in Scotland are produced using Rothamsted Insect Survey count data, and, for the first time, occupancy models are used to estimate occupancy trends for moths in Scotland, using opportunistic records from the National Moth Recording Scheme. Species-level trends are combined to produce abundance and occupancy indicators. The associated uncertainty is estimated using a parametric bootstrap approach, and comparisons are made with alternative published approaches. Overall moth abundance (based on 176 species) in Scotland decreased by 20% for 1975–2014 and by 46% for 1990–2014. The occupancy indicator (based on 230 species) showed a 16% increase for 1990–2014. Alternative methods produced similar indicators and conclusions, suggesting robustness of the results, although rare species may be under-represented in our analyses. Species abundance and occupancy trends were not clearly correlated; in particular species with negative population trends showed varied occupancy responses. Further research into the drivers of moth population changes is required, but increasing occupancy is likely to be driven by a warming summer climate facilitating range expansion, whereas population declines may be driven by reductions in habitat quality, changes in land management practices and warmer, wetter winters.