One of the leading concerns for both conservation biology and forestry has been how forest fragmentation affects biodiversity, and how forestry practices can be altered to mitigate diversity losses. However, the effects of habitat fragmentation on ecological functional groups within diverse taxa such as Lepidoptera are poorly known, particularly in boreal forests. We assessed landscape-level changes in moth species richness and abundance in relation to forest fragmentation, measured at multiple scales. We assessed fragmentation effects on three functional groups: tree- and shrub-feeding species, grass- and forb-feeding species, and species that act as hosts for parasitoids of an important forest defoliator, Malacosoma disstria Hübner (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae). Total species richness showed a significant decline as a function of fragmentation at all measured spatial scales; both polynomial and threshold models tended to explain more variation than linear models, suggesting that there is little to no change in overall moth diversity between low and moderately fragmented stands. However, changes in diversity patterns within functional groups showed that total diversity measures may mask changes in community structure. Changes in overall diversity were driven largely by a decrease in species richness of tree- and shrub-feeding moths, although forb- and grass-feeding moths also showed marginally lower species richness at high fragmentation levels. Most species of the parasitoid host group decreased in abundance with increasing fragmentation. These findings show that overall diversity measures can mask important community changes, and that the optimal landscape scale at which these changes are measured is taxon dependent. Finally, the decrease in host availability to M. disstria parasitoids in fragmented forests may exacerbate population outbreaks of M. disstria.
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Vol. 99 • No. 6