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Moth responses to sympathetic hedgerow management in temperate farmland

Froidevaux, Jérémy S.P., Broyles, Moth, Jones, Gareth
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2019 v.270-271 pp. 55-64
Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, adults, agri-environmental policy, agricultural land, farms, food choices, habitats, landscapes, larvae, light traps, moths, species richness, wildlife, woodlands, United Kingdom
Hedgerows provide valuable habitats and corridors for many species in farmland, yet a lack of appropriate management may threaten their benefits to biodiversity. Although agri-environment scheme (AES) prescriptions on hedgerow management have the potential to reverse the detrimental effect of over-trimming on wildlife, their effectiveness has rarely been addressed. The aims of the study were to (i) assess moth responses to trimming regimes; and (ii) investigate the influence of the surrounding landscape on moth assemblages. We specifically tested the effectiveness of the trimming regime recommended by the targeted AES that was implemented on farms near greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) colonies since it represented the most sympathetic hedgerow management option among English AES options. We sampled adult micro- and macro-moths along 64 hedgerows located within 20 English farms using light traps, and classified moths into two guilds reflecting their larval food preferences, namely grass/herb- and shrub/tree-feeders. Our results suggest that reducing trimming has a positive impact on macro-moth species richness as well as on shrub/tree-feeder abundance and species richness. It also benefited four moth species that are significantly declining in Britain. Furthermore, while the proportion of woodland at a large spatial scale (3.0 km radius around the sampling sites) was positively associated with the abundance of macro-moths and grass/herb-feeders, woodland connectivity had a positive effect on the species richness of grass/herb- and shrub/tree-feeders at large and medium (1.5 km radius) scales, respectively. Both the abundance and species richness of macro-moths and the abundance of shrub/tree-feeders were negatively affected by the presence of arable fields adjacent to hedgerows. Overall, these findings reveal the wider biodiversity benefits of targeted AESs focusing on habitat improvement for R. ferrumequinum, and the importance of woodland in the wider landscape. We therefore strongly recommend implementing a multi-scale management approach (i.e. from field to landscape) through the use of adequate AES prescriptions to conserve moths in agricultural landscapes.