‘Winners’ among British moths

Leopard Moth ©Gordon Redford, Barn Field, near Olney 6 July 2019

An appreciation of how some species are becoming more common despite unprecedented anthropogenic pressures could offer key insights for mitigating the global biodiversity crisis.  Research to date has largely focused on declining species, while species that are becoming more common have received relatively little attention. Macro-moths in Great Britain are well-studied and species-rich, making them an ideal group for addressing this knowledge gap. Here, we examine changes in 51 successful species between 1968 and 2016 using 4.5 million occurrence records and a systematic monitoring dataset. We employ 3D graphical analysis to visualise long-term multidimensional trends in prevalence (abundance and range) and use vector autoregression models to test whether past values of local abundance are useful for predicting changes in the extent of occurrence. The responses of Anthropocene winners are heterogeneous, suggesting multiple drivers are responsible. Changes in range and local abundance frequently occur intermittently through time, demonstrating the value of long-term, continuous monitoring. There is significant diversity among the winners themselves, which include widespread generalists, habitat specialists, and recent colonists. We offer brief discussion of possible causal factors and the wider ecosystem implications of these trends.

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