Moths in fragments

Insights into the biology and ecology of the Australian endangered golden sun moth Synemon plana (Lepidoptera: Castniidae) in natural temperate and exotic grassland remnants

Anett Richter, Will Osborne, Sarah Hnatiuk, Alison Rowell

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    14 Citations (Scopus)


    The conservation and management of endangered species requires an adequate understanding of their biology and ecology. Although there has been an increasing appreciation in Australia of the need for greater efforts to conserve insects, there is only limited information available that can be used to underpin conservation efforts. The endangered golden sun moth, Synemon plana (Lepidoptera: Castniidae) is a flagship species endemic to natural temperate grassland in south-eastern Australia. Most populations of this species are at considerable risk from habitat loss, weed invasion and inadequate management. Despite the considerable knowledge that exists about the species biology and ecology, efforts to improve the species conservation status are hampered because there are still critical gaps in our understanding of the species' natural history. In particular, the ecology of the larvae is not known. Our study examined the abundance, population structure and reproductive biology of the moths in a broad sample of both natural temperate and exotic grassland remnants in and near Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in south-eastern Australia. The results fill critical gaps in the knowledge needed to achieve effective conservation management. From our findings, it is clear that the species inhabits grasslands dominated by a mixture of native wallaby grasses (Rytidosperma spp. (formerly Austrodanthonia)) and spear grasses (Austrostipa spp.). In contrast to earlier suggestions that S. plana is entirely confined to natural temperate grassland, mature and immature life stages of the species were also present in grasslands comprised entirely of the exotic Chilean needlegrass (Nassella neesiana). Most of the S. plana populations surveyed in the ACT were characterised by low relative abundance with only very few large populations being recorded. The conservation of exotic grasslands as substitute habitat for S. plana is discussed and suggestions regarding future monitoring and research of the species are provided.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1093-1104
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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