Spotlight on moths in S’pore to assess impact of climate change, habitat loss on biodiversity

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May 20, 2024, 05:00 AM


May 20, 2024, 05:00 AM

SINGAPORE – While one might think of them as the half-ignored siblings of butterflies, moths play a role in the Singapore ecosystem that has not been adequately understood.

Local researchers are now shining a spotlight on these flitting, mostly nocturnal, creatures.

Moths are critical in helping to pollinate plants and flowers at night, taking over the role played by butterflies and bees during the day, said Associate Professor Eleanor Slade of NTU’s Asian School of the Environment (ASE). 

They are also an important food source for bats and birds, and their presence is a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem, she added.

Reports have pointed to an insect Armageddon caused by pollution, climate change and habitat loss, which could have ramifications on food production for humans. 

To help determine the moth species found in Singapore, 10 remote monitoring stations have been placed around the island, each fitted with an ultraviolet (UV) light source to attract the insects and a camera to automatically photograph them. 

With the help of artificial intelligence, the moth species can then be identified in real time, said Prof Slade, who runs ASE’s Tropical Ecology and Entomology Lab.

However, a local database of moth species has to be established first, and the researchers plan to use images from citizen science platform iNaturalist.

The iNaturalist app allows the public to photograph and record interesting plant and animal species that they encounter.

Moths can help scientists understand how biodi...

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