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Title:Influence of habitat and bat activity on moth community composition and seasonal phenology across habitat types
Author(s):Safford, Matthew
Advisor(s):Harmon-Threatt, Alexandra N.
Department / Program:Entomology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Habitat Structure
Community Composition
Abstract:Understanding the factors that influence moth diversity and abundance is important for monitoring moth biodiversity and developing conservation strategies. Studies of moth habitat use have primarily focused on access to host plants used by specific moth species. How vegetation structure influences moth communities within and between habitats and mediates the activity of insectivorous bats is understudied. Previous research into the impact of bat activity on moths has primarily focused on interactions in a single habitat type or a single moth species of interest, leaving a large knowledge gap on how habitat structure and bat activity influence the composition of moth communities across habitat types. I conducted monthly surveys at sites in two habitat types, restoration prairie and forest. Moths were collected using black light bucket traps and identified to species. Bat echolocation calls were recorded using ultrasonic detectors and classified into phonic groups to understand how moth community responds to the presence of these predators. Plant diversity and habitat structure variables, including tree diameter at breast height, ground cover, and vegetation height were measured during summer surveys to document how differences in habitat structure between and within habitats influences moth diversity. I found that moth communities vary significantly between habitat types. I identified 6023 moths from 252 species in twelve families. We found significant differences in moth community between the two habitat types, with greater diversity and 75% of total specimens collected in forest. Forest sites averaged 568 specimens and 97 species collected over the course of the project, while prairie sites averaged 185 specimens and 48.9 species. I identified 2019 bat call passes, with the majority in prairie habitat. In prairie habitat, increased bat activity is correlated with decreased moth diversity and abundance. There was no relationship between bat activity and moth diversity in forest habitat, and the habitat as a whole appears to be a refugia from bat predation. Moth diversity was negatively related to increasing tree diameter, suggesting that more dense forests may support a greater number of species. While overall structural complexity is decreased in prairie habitat, heterogeneity in ground vegetation may mediate interactions between moths and their bat predators. Many moth species were found in both habitat types, suggesting high dispersal out of the more specious and abundant forest habitat. Sampling occurred over most of a year, and we documented trends in moth phenology between the two habitat types. Moth communities were strongly correlated with temperature, and diversity and abundance were highest during the summer, though there were two peaks in species richness over the summer, independent of temperature. Several species, specifically Paleacrita vernata, Sericaglaea signata, and Epiglaea decliva, are present predominately during winter months and subsequent research should focus on this understudied activity period. Six species from three families are potential new state records for Illinois. The species list created by this project can be used as a baseline for future research and monitoring in southern Illinois, and this methodology can be used as a standard protocol for subsequent studies of moth communities.
Issue Date:2018-04-26
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Matthew Safford
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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