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Towards a European Red List of Moths

Dutch Butterfly Conservation, IUCN
31-MAY-2021 - Moths are a biologically diverse group and as such form a significant part of Europe’s fauna. They are found from shorelines to mountaintops, and from the Mediterranean to the sub-Arctic, contributing to key ecosystem services, such as plant pollination and nutrient recycling. IUCN in partnership with Butterfly Conservation UK and Dutch Butterfly Conservation work on a European Red List of Moths.
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Red underwing (Catocala nupta)As a group, moths are often extremely specialised organisms, that sometimes rely on single food plants. Moths are also sensitive to the availability of certain habitat structures and specific regional climates. Population declines in moths have been identified in various European countries, and in some cases quantified. For example, in 2017 Valtonen and others identified a dramatic rate of species loss and a homogenisation of community compositions in Hungary. Antäo and others reported in 2020 that in Finland moth abundance had declined although species richness had increased. In the UK, Bell and others concluded in 2020 that moths had declined by 31 percent over 47 years with significant declines found in a range of habitat types. Many species are likely to be threatened through habitat change, for example through agricultural intensification and abandonment, changing woodland management and urbanisation.

Rosy footman (Miltochrista miniata); herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix); common swift moth (Pharmacis lupulina); beaded chestnut (Agrochola lychnidis) & buff arches (Habrosyne pyritoides)

Drinker (Euthrix potatoria)Despite initiatives, information on moth biodiversity that is readily available can be limited in scope and accuracy and is often out of date. However, information about biodiversity is critical to achieve both global and European environmental protection objectives. At the European level, the EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 clearly sets a target to reverse the decline of pollinators across Europe by 2030, through the EU Nature Restoration Plan and the EU Pollinators Initiative. The latter was launched by the European Commission in 2018 to improve the knowledge on wild pollinators, in particular the causes and consequences of their decline in Europe. Moths are part of this group.  

Brick (Agrochola circellaris); yellow shell (Camptogramma bilineata); purple cloud (Actinotia polyodon); Clancy's rustic (Caradrina kadenii) & hummingbird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

Black-spot chestnut (Conistra rubiginosa)The vision of the European Red List is to produce reliable information on the status of biodiversity available to support the work of conservation practitioners, scientists, land-use planners, policymakers and others. Red List data are primarily used as indicators of biodiversity trends at the species level but can also be extrapolated for use as indicators of trends at the habitat and ecosystem level.

With this new project on moths which is funded by the European Union, experts will work on assessing the regional status of all native species of macro moths present in Europe and a selection of micro moths species. The project started in April 2021 and is expected to run until March 2024. As an output, several factsheets and publications will inform practitioners, policy makers and the public on the status of a selection of moths assessed following the IUCN’s Red List methodology.

For more details, please contact the IUCN Secretariat in Brussels.

Text: Sarine Barsoumian, IUCN and Kars Veling, Dutch Butterfly Conservation
Photos: Kars Veling (lead photo: the elephant hawk moth (Deilephila elpenor))

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