A new study from the rainforests of Panama provides an unprecedented level of detail regarding the diversity and distribution of arthropod species from the soil to the forest canopy. Yves Basset, scientific coordinator of the CTFS Arthropod Initiative at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, led an international team on Project IBISCA-Panama to sample, sort, catalogue, and finally estimate that a 6,000 hectare forest hosts a total of around 25,000 arthropod species – a figure vastly outnumbering that of better-studied organisms. The study will be published online on Dec. 13 in the journal Science.
Most multicellular species on Earth are arthropods living in tropical forests. Yet, given the difficulties involved in merely tallying them, we know very little about their exact numbers– even at the scale of a single forest. A massive collaborative effort involving 102 researchers from 21 countries was necessary to collect and identify arthropods from all parts of the rainforest. During 2003-2004, the field team spent an effort of nearly 70 person- or trap-years in sampling the rainforest canopy from a construction crane, inflatable platforms, balloons, climbing ropes through forest layers, as well as crawling along the forest floor to sift soil, and trap and bait arthropods. During the ensuing eight years, the team sorted and identified 130,000 arthropods, to a total of more than 6,000 species.
By scaling up the diversity values obtained from twelve intensively-sampled sites, the team was able to calculate that the rainforest reserve harbors in excess of 25,000 arthropod species. "This is a high number as it implies that for every species of vascular plant, bird or mammal in this forest, you will find 20, 83 and 312 species of arthropods, respectively," explains Basset. "If we are interested in conserving the diversity of life on Earth, we should start thinking about how best to conserve arthropods," adds Tomas Roslin from the University of Helsinki, one of 35 co-authors.
"What surprised us the most was that more than half of all species could be found in a single hectare of the forest", said Basset. "This is good news, as it means that to determine the species diversity of a tropical rainforest, we need not sample gigantic areas: a total of one hectare may suffice to get an idea of regional arthropod richness – provided that this total includes widely spaced plots representative of variation within the forest," said Roslin.
"Another exciting finding was that the diversity of both herbivorous and non-herbivorous arthropods could be accurately predicted from the diversity of plants", says Basset. "By focusing conservation efforts on floristically diverse sites, we may save a large fraction of arthropods under the same umbrella. Further, this strengthens past ideas that we should really be basing estimates of global species richness on the number of plant species," stresses Roslin.
"While we have assigned immense resources to mapping our genes, resolving sub-atomic structures and searching for extra-terrestrial life, we have invested much less in exploring with whom we share the Earth. Why such research should be run on a shoe string budget just escapes me," reflects Basset.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute: http://www.stri.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
A new study published today in PLOS One shows that golden orb weaver spiders living near heavily urbanized areas in Sydney, Australia tend to be bigger, better fed, and have more babies than those living in places less touched by human hands.
Long summer days in Alaska help cabbages, turnips and other vegetables grow to gargantuan sizes. These "giants" are celebrated at the annual state fair, which kicks off on Thursday.
The EPA wants to "clarify" the scope of its oversight of water under the Clean Water Act. Big farm groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation call this a power grab that would place every ditch and mud puddle under federal regulation, forcing farmers to get permits for small trenches around the farm.
For the first time, biologists measure the force applied by climbing snakes and find that they squeeze up to five times harder than necessary.
Long exposure gives an ethereal view of fires raging across Yosemite National Park, where drought and a hot summer have created unprecedented conditions
As the world grows hungrier for animal protein, insects could be the new way to feed livestock.Most farmers go to great lengths to keep insects at bay. For a growing cadre of livestock and fish producers though, bugs have never been so welcome.
Similar to money, humanity's ecological resources can either be increased or depleted for a certain amount of time
As orangutans are added to a list of the worlds 25 most endangered primates, we are discovering that these great apes are more like humans than we supposed
A recent study tried to pin down just how many elephants have been killed by poachers. It's a lot — enough to eventually eliminate the species — but pinning down an exact death toll is difficult. The reason elephants are so hard to protect is the same that makes them so hard to count: They roam — exceptionally far.
This ferocious feline isn't stalking the savannah, as you might expect: it's prowling Malibu Creek State Park, a stone's throw from Los Angeles