Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp 725–748 | Cite as

The macrolepidoptera of farm woodlands: determinants of diversity and community structure

  • Michael B. Usher
  • Scott W. J. Keiller


The Farm Woodland Scheme, which provided incentives to convert agricultural land to timber production, contained an implicit assumption that farm woodlands produce important benefits for wildlife. The moth fauna of 18 farm woodlands in the Vale of York was surveyed between May and November 1991. The aims were twofold. The first was to determine if there were benefits for moth species diversity. The second was to ascertain whether concepts of island biogeography and the plant species richness of the woods were related to the moth species composition.

Eleven families, 214 species and over 16 000 individuals of moths were recorded. Classification of the species presence/absence matrix indicated that small woods (less than 1ha) did not have characteristic woodland moth communities. Woods larger than 5ha were judged to be more valuable for the long-term conservation of woodland moth diversity. The best predictor of moth species richness was the herbaceous plant species richness within woodlands. Species richness of the family Geometridae was positively related to woodland area, as well as to woodland shape (compact shapes being preferable to elongated shapes). Characteristic woodland species are influenced by isolation (less isolated woods being richer in species). The implications of different powers of dispersal between moth families are discussed. Farm woodlands will be of more value for the conservation of the Macrolepidoptera if they are large, compact and incorporate remnants of existing woodland with extant herbaceous vegetation. These should be factors which are taken into consideration when providing incentives to establish and manage farm woodlands.

farm woodlands island biogeography Lepidoptera moths species richness woodlands 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael B. Usher
    • 1
  • Scott W. J. Keiller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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