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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Systematic Entomology Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #331157

Research Project: Systematics of Lepidoptera: Invasive Species, Pest and Biological Control Agents

Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Title: Historical and ecological insights from a relictual sandplain: reexamining the insular moth fauna of Martha’s Vineyard (Dukes County, Massachusetts, USA)

Author
item Goldstein, Paul
item Nelson, Michael - Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program
item Simmons, Tim - Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program
item Raleigh, Llyod - Non ARS Employee

Submitted to: Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2017
Publication Date: 1/1/2018
Citation: Goldstein, P.Z., Nelson, M.W., Simmons, T., Raleigh, L. 2018. Historical and ecological insights from a relictual sandplain: reexamining the insular moth fauna of Martha’s Vineyard (Dukes County, Massachusetts, USA). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 120(1):57.

Interpretive Summary: This paper summarizes the most significant findings of one of the more intensive moth sampling efforts undertaken in the Northeast USA. These include the documentation of many species that appear to track changes in agricultural landscapes as they are abandoned for other uses or revert to forest. Many such species figure prominently in current land management and land use planning efforts. We document the highest known concentration of regionally rare and declining species and/or disjunct populations in the Northeast, clarify the provenance of many new records, and interpret the occurrences of moths in the context of post-agricultural land use change. We also highlight the importance of New England's offshore islands as refugia for remnant populations of species known from nowhere else in the region. This information will be used by researchers exploring distributions of insects and faunal change in response changing land use practices and climate. The data are also of immediate interest to state land management agencies and land trusts for purposes of guiding management priorities for sandplains, and by biologists studying insect faunas in such habitats.

Technical Abstract: Insect faunas of coastal islands are of interest both as refugia for biological diversity and points of first arrival by exotic and invasive species. Southern New England’s offshore islands have been targets of entomological study for nearly a century, and the largest of them, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, supports one of the highest concentrations of regionally unique or threatened lepidopteran occurrences in the northeastern United States. These include what appears to be the most intact moth fauna associated with barrens, heathlands, and other sandplain communities that have been longstanding topics of discussion among land managers and conservation planners throughout the northeast, and we summarize results of more than 30 years of lepidopteran sampling across the island. These records include more than 75% of the ~90 moth species formally protected in Massachusetts and Connecticut combined. They represent an array of first recorded regional occurrences, unique records of species previously believed extirpated, absent, or in decline throughout mainland New England. We explore the associations of threatened moths with various habitats in the context of regional decline, and emphasize the relevance of moth life history requirements to understanding their distributions across inland, coastal, and island sandplains with varied ecological and land use histories.