Denmark’s Zoological Museum publishes 18 years of moth monitoring observations

The Zoological Museum in Copenhagen has published data from an 18-year roof-top monitoring programme that collects insects with light traps.

Catocala nupta, a rare species of moth observed every year of the monitoring study. Photo by M.Virtala. CC0.

The Zoological Museum in Copenhagen has published data from an 18-year roof-top monitoring programme that collects insects with light traps. The published records account for 1,063 of the country’s 2,522 known butterfly and moth species, or 42 per cent of Lepidoptera species recorded in Denmark.

The data date back to 1992, when Ole Karsholt, the now-retired collection manager for Lepidoptera, set up a light trap in a small section of the roof, simply out of curiosity. “I wanted to see what insects were flying out there,” he recalls. “A week after setting up the trap, we found a moth species that had not been reported from Denmark for over 50 years and was thought extinct.”

During the light trap’s 4,500 nights of operation between 1992 and 2009, researchers from the museum documented seven species of moth new to Denmark. The museum is part of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, and the study location also houses the GBIF Secretariat.

As the light trap operated in the night, nearly all the observations were of moth species. Coleoptera or beetle species were also documented as part of the monitoring exercise.

The 37,477 Lepidoptera records gathered by the study are one of the first datasets published through GBIF.org as a sampling-event dataset. Enabled through an extension of the Darwin Core Standard approved last year, this class of dataset provides richer detail about both a study’s methodology and species abundance.

”This is an important urban biodiversity dataset with information on a large number of species, captured over an extended period of time,” says Dmitry Schigel, GBIF programme officer for content analysis and use. “The availability of sample-based datasets through GBIF.org will improve researchers’ ability to study changes in species populations over time.”

KU researchers teamed with Polish colleagues to use these data to analyze the impacts of climate change on insect biodiversity in a recent peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Citations

Thomsen PF, Jørgensen PS, Bruun HH et al. (2016). Available via http://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12452.

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