Recent trends in UK insects that inhabit early successional stages of ecosystems

Thomas, Jeremy A.; Edwards, Mike; Simcox, David J.; Powney, Gary D.; August, Tom A. ORCID:; Isaac, Nick J.B. ORCID: 2015 Recent trends in UK insects that inhabit early successional stages of ecosystems [in special issue: Fifty years of the Biological Records Centre] Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 115 (3). 636-646.

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Improved recording of less popular groups, combined with new statistical approaches that compensate for datasets that were hitherto too patchy for quantitative analysis, now make it possible to compare recent trends in the status of UK invertebrates other than butterflies. Using BRC datasets, we analysed changes in status between 1992 and 2012 for those invertebrates whose young stages exploit early seral stages within woodland, lowland heath and semi-natural grassland ecosystems, a habitat type that had declined during the 3 decades previous to 1990 alongside a disproportionally high number of Red Data Book species that were dependent on it. Two clear patterns emerged from a meta-analysis involving 299 classifiable species belonging to ten invertebrate taxa: (i) during the past 2 decades, most early seral species that are living near their northern climatic limits in the UK have increased relative to the more widespread members of these guilds whose distributions were not governed by a need for a warm micro-climate; and (ii) independent of climatic constraints, species that are restricted to the early stages of woodland regeneration have fared considerably less well than those breeding in the early seral stages of grasslands or, especially, heathland. The first trend is consistent with predicted benefits for northern edge-of-range species as a result of climate warming in recent decades. The second is consistent with our new assessment of the availability of early successional stages in these three ecosystems since c. 1990. Whereas the proportion and continuity of early seral patches has greatly increased within most semi-natural grasslands and lowland heaths, thanks respectively to agri-environmental schemes and conservation management, the representation of fresh clearings has continued to dwindle within UK woodlands, whose floors are increasingly shaded and ill-suited for this important guild of invertebrates.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pywell
ISSN: 0024-4066
Additional Keywords: grassland, heathland, insect conservation, land management, vegetation structure, woodland
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 07 Jul 2015 11:59 +0 (UTC)

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