Are butterflies and moths useful indicators for restoration monitoring? A pilot study in Sydney's Cumberland Plain Woodland


  • Boris Lomov,

  • David A. Keith,

  • David R. Britton,

  • Dieter F. Hochuli

  • Boris Lomov is an entomologist at Sydney Aquarium; he carried out this research as part of his PhD at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney (NSW 2006, Australia, Tel. 02 93515118, Fax: 02 93514119, Email: Dieter Hochuli is a Senior Lecturer in the Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney (NSW 2006, Australia, Tel. 02 93513992; Email: David Keith is a Principal Research Scientist with the Biodiveristy Conservation Science Section at the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation (PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia, Tel. 02 95856498, Email: David Britton is the Entomology Collection Manager at the Australian Museum (6 College St Sydney, NSW 2010 Australia, Tel. 02 93206221, Email:


Summary  Moths and butterflies are strongly associated with vegetation structure and composition, which makes them a suitable indicator taxon for various ecological studies. Despite a good knowledge of many Australian lepidopteran taxa, they have rarely been used for restoration assessment. To explore the feasibility of using Lepidoptera as an indicator taxon for restoration monitoring in Australia, we used it to evaluate the success of a large-scale revegetation program in western Sydney. We compared moth and butterfly assemblages sampled with relatively low intensity in unrestored pastures, revegetated pastures and remnants of endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland (restoration aim). A light-trap survey of moth assemblages showed no significant differences in moth species richness and composition between any of the treatments with traps in revegetated areas producing most species rich samples. Butterfly surveys conducted over a 1-year period showed a considerable increase in butterfly species richness in revegetated areas compared to pastures, while forest remnants still had twice as many butterfly species compared to revegetated areas. Current revegetation practices employed to restore Cumberland Plain Woodland increased the diversity of lepidopteran assemblages, however, it is not clear whether they are on a trajectory towards the reference assemblages of forest remnants. Our study demonstrates that Lepidoptera, particularly butterflies, has a potential for broader application as an indicator group in restoration monitoring in Australia.