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Debbie Hadley

Britain's Moth Populations Crashing, Says New Study

By February 11, 2013

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A new study of Britain's larger moth species shows cause for concern. A full two-thirds of the common and widespread species of larger moths have declined over the past 40 years, many significantly. The report, entitled The State of Britain's Larger Moths 2013 (PDF), is based on data on larger moths collected continuously from 1968-2007.

Findings of particular concern include:

  • 61 species of larger moths declined by 75% or more between 1968-2007.
  • Three species went extinct since 2000, and scientists suspect a fourth, the stout dart, may also now be extinct.
  • 27 new species have colonized Britain since 2000, and more than 100 species were recorded in Britain for the first time.
  • Total moth abundance decreased by 40% in southern Britain, but remained unchanged in northern Britain.

The study authors voice their concerns over the measurable decrease in moth diversity and abundance, noting that moths play crucial roles as plant pollinators and as food sources for other animals. They point to a combination of factors that may contribute to this severe decline in moth populations: climate change, habitat destruction, nutrient enrichment, and light pollution.

In response to the report, the UK-based charity Butterfly Conservation has launched a fundraising drive, seeking donations to help them restore and improve moth habitat throughout Britain.

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