Differences in the community composition of nocturnal Lepidoptera between native and invaded forests are linked to the habitat structure

Abstract

Non-native invasive plants are among the main threats to global biodiversity, including insects, and it is thus important to understand the mechanisms of how invasive plants impact native species. The community composition of nocturnal Lepidoptera was studied in the Czech Republic (Central Europe) in stands of native deciduous trees and in stands dominated by the invasive tree Robinia pseudoacacia, using automatic portable light traps together with an assessment of habitat characteristics. Native stands had more closed canopies and poorly developed understories. Conversely, R. pseudoacacia stands were more open and heterogeneous, with sparse canopies, well-developed shrub layers and a higher cover of taller herbs. Moth species richness, abundance and biomass were lower in R. pseudoacacia, likely due to the low richness of canopy herbivores not adapted to feed on the exotic host. However, feeding guilds associated with the understorey were more represented in stands of R. pseudoacacia, likely due to the more heterogeneous habitat structure. The Lepidopteran communities observed in stands of R. pseudoacacia resembled communities of open-forests or forest-steppe habitats. In contrast, native stands were dominated by Lepidoptera associated with trees, including forest specialists but also habitat generalists. From a conservation perspective, it appears that the invasive R. pseudoacacia created structurally more heterogeneous environment and more Lepidopteran open-forest guilds were associated with this habitat. However, further spread of R. pseudoacacia should be prevented because it reduces the species richness of Lepidoptera. Simultaneously, we recommend increasing the habitat heterogeneity of native forests to support functionally more diverse Lepidopteran communities.

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Acknowledgements

We thank J. Skala for his help during light trapping in the field, J. Rom, Prague City Hall, and P. Heřman, Bohemian Karst PLA, for their help with getting permits for the fieldwork and P. Chajma for fruitful comments.

Funding

This study was funded by the Czech Science Foundation (Grant No. 18-26542S), the Internal Grant Agency of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (Grant No. 20164222), and the Charles University Research Centre (Grant No. 204069).

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Correspondence to Tomáš Kadlec.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Forest and plantation biodiversity.

Communicated by David Hawksworth.

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Kadlec, T., Štrobl, M., Hanzelka, J. et al. Differences in the community composition of nocturnal Lepidoptera between native and invaded forests are linked to the habitat structure. Biodivers Conserv 27, 2661–2680 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-018-1560-8

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Keywords

  • Moths
  • Exotic species
  • Species traits
  • Light trapping
  • Robinia pseudoacacia
  • Forest management