Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tropical Insects 'Go The Distance' To Inform Rainforest Conservation

Date:
August 15, 2007
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
The long-held belief that plant-eating insects in tropical forests are picky eaters that stay "close to home" -- dining only on locale-specific vegetation -- is being challenged by new research findings that suggest these insects feast on a broader menu of foliage and can be consistently found across hundreds of miles of tropical forestland. These findings have significant implications related to the sustainability and conservation of these globally-important areas.

Papua New Guinea: An undisturbed, virgin rainforest where the research team worked.
Credit: Jiri Hulcr, Michigan State University

The long-held belief that plant-eating insects in tropical forests are picky eaters that stay "close to home" -- dining only on locale-specific vegetation -- is being challenged by new research findings that suggest these insects feast on a broader menu of foliage and can be consistently found across hundreds of miles of tropical forestland.

These findings have significant implications related to the sustainability and conservation of these globally-important areas.

Michigan State University scientist Anthony Cognato and graduate student Jiri Hulcr were part of an international team that conducted this groundbreaking research, the results of which are described in the Aug.ust 9 online issue of the journal Nature. The group included scientists from Australia, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, New Guinea and the United States.

"Tropical rain forests are home to a rich diversity of plants, birds, insects and other animals," said Hulcr, an entomology PhD doctoral student working with Cognato and co-author of the report. "They also play an important role in our global climate and provide aesthetic, recreational and medicinal benefits. For these reasons and others, it is critical that we understand how these forests generate and sustain their diversity and what we can do to help conserve them."

The study included approximately 500 species of caterpillars, beetles and fruitfliesfruit flies from common plant-eating families and 175 species from four diverse plant groups across 28,950 square miles of contiguous lowland rain forest in Paupua, New Guinea.

Cognato and Hulcr were key collaborators on the project because of their expertise related to the biology and ecology of the bark and ambrosia beetle family, a model group of insects compoprised of 6,000 species worldwide, and one common to tropical rain forests.

"What we found was that the composition of the community of beetles does not change with distance as long as the environment is stable," Cognato said. "Even communities hundreds of miles apart are the same. And if there are differences, they seem to be random and not caused by any environmental change."

Study findings were similar for the butterfly and fruit fly species examined in the study.

"Such knowledge is critical to understanding the roles of ecological processes in maintaining tropical diversity, predicting species extinction and designing the systems of protected natural areas," Hulcr said. "Because diversity doesn't necessarily increase with distance, but animals in small reserves

tend to go extinct, you should plan for one large area instead of having a lot of small and distant areas to manage and conserve."

Cognato and Hulcr expect similar patterns in other tropical lowland rain forests, as they are typically situated in the extensive low basins of major rivers comparable to the study area in New Guinea. They are currently conducting research in other areas of the tropics -- including Borneo, Ecuador, Guyana, Ghana and Thailand -- to confirm the New Guinea findings.

"If we want the stability of these forests, especially given how much they are threatened now, we need to understand how to best set up conservation areas," said Cognato said. "And it's not just about the flashy species; it's about the whole thing."

Hulcr agrees.

"This and additional research will allow conservation managers and policy makers to base decisions on data rather than on theory so that we can preserve as much diversity as possible," Hulcr said. "We are excited to be part of the ongoing, international effort to add to the extensive data necessary for the understanding, analysis and conservation of complex tropical forest ecosystems."

Cognato and Hulcr's work was funded by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society and MSU's Michigan Agricultural Experiement Station.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Tropical Insects 'Go The Distance' To Inform Rainforest Conservation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070809131630.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2007, August 15). Tropical Insects 'Go The Distance' To Inform Rainforest Conservation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070809131630.htm
Michigan State University. "Tropical Insects 'Go The Distance' To Inform Rainforest Conservation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070809131630.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath

Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath

AP (July 25, 2014) Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe toured the Cherrystone Family Camping and RV Resort on the Chesapeake Bay today, a day after it was hit by a tornado. The storm claimed two lives and injured dozens of others. (July 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins