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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. and Twiss, S.D. and Stephens, P.A. and Mason, T.H.E. and Ryrholm, N. and Burman, J. (2022) 'The Importance of Direct and Indirect Trophic Interactions in Determining the Presence of a Locally Rare Day-Flying Moth.', Oecologia, 198 (2). pp. 531-542.


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.

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Publisher statement:Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:17 December 2021
Date deposited:07 February 2022
Date of first online publication:08 January 2022
Date first made open access:07 February 2022

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