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U.K. Moth Populations Seen Plunging Because of Habitat Loss

U.K. populations of large, common moths plunged by two-thirds in the past 40 years, potentially threatening plants reliant on the insects for pollination and animals that depend on them for food, Rothamsted Research said.

Thirty-seven percent of U.K. moth species decreased by at least half, the agricultural researcher said today in a report on its website, citing an insect survey it conducted with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Shrinking moth populations were more pronounced in the country’s south than in northern areas, as habitat losses were more widespread in southern regions while a warming climate benefited some species further north.

“As well as being important pollinators, moths are an absolutely vital cog in the food chain for other species, such as birds and bats,” Chris Packham, vice president of Butterfly Conservation, said in the statement. “The dramatic and ongoing loss of moth abundance highlighted in this report signals a potentially catastrophic loss of biodiversity in the British countryside.”

The Orange Upperwing, Bordered Gothic and Brighton Wainscot species of moth became extinct in the past 10 years, after 62 other species were wiped out in the last century, Rothamsted said. Twenty-seven new species of moth have colonized in the country since 2000 as climate change encouraged some moths to migrate from continental Europe, it said.

Butterfly Conservation worked with Rothamsted on the report.

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