Posted 11 May 2020
Harper Adams University Lecturer in Entomology Dr Simon Segar is one of the authors of a chapter in a recently published top ecology book series looking at insect populations in the tropics.
The majority of the world’s insects live in the tropics and are among the most understudied groups of macro-terrestrial life. What little is known about long-term trends in insect abundance and species richness comes from time series or snapshots from temperate areas.
In a recent chapter for the book series Advances in Ecological Research a team of authors, including Dr Simon Segar, appraise and discuss ongoing monitoring schemes in the tropics.
Dr Segar said: “Insects are tightly bound to their environments and often sensitive to subtle changes in their surroundings. There has been a recent flux of papers reporting on declining insect biomass and species in temperate regions, the so called ‘insect Armageddon’.
“There is widespread consensus that many insect species are under threat, and it is beyond doubt that this diverse and fascinating group of animals is essential for ecosystem function and food security.
“However, most of the world’s insects live in the tropics.”
By means of a case study, the chapter’s authors discuss the ongoing ForestGEO Arthropod Initiative led by Dr Basset of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. This flagship monitoring scheme monitors multiple trapping methods to survey several groups of tropical arthropods.
The scheme monitors arthropods at seven sites across the globe. At Barro Colorado Island in Panama the project has accumulated 11 years of continuous data and recorded over half a million specimens and 2,300 focal species.
This data helps researchers to observe and explain long-term changes in insect abundance and community composition driven by, for example, La Niña and El Niño events. Such detail is essential for the development of predictive models.
The team is increasingly including data on insect morphology and evolutionary relationships to better understand fluctuations in insect numbers across time.
The chapter Monitoring Tropical Insects in the 21st Century is available to read on Science Direct.