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The Importance of Direct and Indirect Trophic Interactions in Determining the Presence of a Locally Rare Day-Flying Moth

O'Neill, H.M.; Twiss, S.D.; Stephens, P.A.; Mason, T.H.E.; Ryrholm, N.; Burman, J.

The Importance of Direct and Indirect Trophic Interactions in Determining the Presence of a Locally Rare Day-Flying Moth Thumbnail


H.M. O'Neill

T.H.E. Mason

N. Ryrholm

J. Burman


Ecosystem engineers affect other organisms by creating, maintaining or modifying habitats, potentially supporting species of conservation concern. However, it is important to consider these interactions alongside non-engineering trophic pathways. We investigated the relative importance of trophic and non-trophic effects of an ecosystem engineer, red deer, on a locally rare moth, the transparent burnet ( Zygaena purpuralis ). This species requires specific microhabitat conditions, including the foodplant, thyme, and bare soil for egg-laying. The relative importance of grazing (i.e., trophic effect of modifying microhabitat) and trampling (i.e., non-trophic effect of exposing bare soil) by red deer on transparent burnet abundance are unknown. We tested for these effects using a novel method of placing pheromone-baited funnel traps in the field. Imago abundance throughout the flight season was related to plant composition, diversity and structure at various scales around each trap. Indirect effects of red deer activity were accounted for by testing red deer pellet and trail presence against imago abundance. Imago abundance was positively associated with thyme and plant diversity, whilst negatively associated with velvet grass and heather species cover. The presence of red deer pellets and trails were positively associated with imago abundance. The use of these sites by red deer aids the transparent burnet population via appropriate levels of grazing and the provision of a key habitat condition, bare soil, in the form of deer trails. This study shows that understanding how both trophic and non-trophic interactions affect the abundance of a species provides valuable insights regarding conservation objectives.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 17, 2021
Online Publication Date Jan 8, 2022
Publication Date 2022-02
Deposit Date Nov 25, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 7, 2022
Journal Oecologia
Print ISSN 0029-8549
Electronic ISSN 1432-1939
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 198
Issue 2
Pages 531-542
Public URL


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