close up of an ant

Arthropod Monitoring


ForestGEO Arthropod Database - now live!


At each participating ForestGEO site, the first year of the program is devoted to a baseline survey that serves several purposes, notably, to refine the methodology and the definitive choice of assemblages. This baseline survey involves replicated, repeated sampling programs using a mixed set of procedures. The baseline survey is followed by longer-term programs of field work and analysis, organized into two main sub-programs: monitoring and key interaction studies. The monitoring sub-program is directed to detect long-term changes, as reflected in priority assemblages, driven by climatic cycles, climatic change, and landscape-scale habitat alteration. Monitoring protocols are derived from those used during the baseline survey. The food-web approach of interaction studies will involve rearing insects feeding on a small subset of local plant species (such as ten focal tree species), as well as associated seed predators and parasitoids. When deemed appropriate, a new subset of focal plant species will be chosen, expanding progressively the study system and the ecological knowledge of ForestGEO sites.

Since adults are easier to survey than juveniles, the monitoring scheme targets adults, surveyed by traps. Since juveniles are often more intimately associated with plants than adults, interaction studies focus mainly on juveniles reared from focal plant species. The baseline survey, reference collections, and barcoding library help to match juveniles with adults. In short, the ForestGEO Arthropod Initiative targets common species that are well collected with methods that can be applied consistently over the network. This is reasonable, as rare species are not amenable to statistical analysis of long-term monitoring trends.

Apart from the more obvious benefits of local capacity training and technology transfer, the arthropod initiative may benefit in diverse ways local collaborators and institutions associated with this long-term endeavor:

  • Ecologists: access to results obtained over the ForestGEO network and related to arthropod monitoring and arthropod food webs centered on focal tree species.
  • Taxonomists: varied entomological material of mostly tropical origin; access to barcoding information and opportunities to develop global phylogenies.
  • Academic institutions: opportunities to develop particular entomological projects over the ForestGEO network; comparisons of temperate and tropical faunas; emulation of local entomological societies.
  • Entomological societies: collaborative project, under strict scientific supervision provided by local academic institutions; opportunities for individual or joint collaboration at tropical plots; being part of an ‘entomological network’, which will expand.

In 2008, ForestGEO provided seed money to start implementing the initiative at Barro Colorado Island (Panama) and Khao Chong (Thailand). Specifically this funding allowed performing the baseline survey in full on BCI and KHC: litter ants, selected moths, butterflies, bees, termites and fruit-flies (seed predators, parasitoids and caterpillars are not targeted in this initial effort but will be studied when starting monitoring and interaction studies in 2009). In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is funding mosquito monitoring at BCI and will work closely with the arthropod initiative.

As of October 2012, we own three full years of monitoring data at BCI (2009-2011) and one full year at KHC (2011). We also have started baseline surveys at the site of Wanang in Papua New Guinea. In the near future, we hope (a) to consolidate and expand arthropod studies at BCI, Khao Chong and Wanang; and (b) to expand the arthropod initiative to other and future ForestGEO plots, pending on both additional funds available to us and interest of local plot PIs.

Currently, the Arthropod Initiative involves nine ForestGEO sites: Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama; Khao Chong (KHC), Thailand; Wanang, Papua New Guinea; Yasui, Ecuador; Rabi, Gabon; Tai Po Kau, Dinghushan, Xishunangbanna (China); and Bukit Timah, Singapore.

Our laboratories, staff, and collections are based at local institutions, such as the Maestria de Entomologia of the National University (Panama), Khao Chong Botanic Gardens (Thailand), ​​​​and the New Guinea Binatang Research Center (Papau New Guinea). In the near future, we hope to (1) consolidate and expand arthropod studies at all participating sites, including the participation of local and foreign researchers and students, and (2) expand the arthropod initiative to other ForestGEO plot, pending local interest. 

View the annual reports.

Tropical arthropods represent a significant fraction of biodiversity and play major roles in ecosystem function, yet the theory and practice of assessing their response to arthropogenic disturbance remains poorly developed. In addition, recent studies indicate that arthropod populations are rapidly responding to current human-driven climate change with modifications in phenology, distribution, and species interactions. Significantly, arthropod response has also been stronger than in other groups of organisms, such as plants. However, adequate monitoring schemes for multitaxic assemblages of tropical arthropods are currently lacking.

The Arthropod Initiative of ForestGEO aims at long-term monitoring of key arthropod assemblages and studying insect-plant interactions over our forest network. The initiative integrates with ongoing monitoring of plant dynamics within the network, causes minimum possible impact to the plots, and focuses on a priority set of assemblages chosen for their ecological relevance, taxonomic tractability, and ease of sampling. These assemblages include mainly:

  • termites (decomposers)
  • selected moths, butterflies, and their caterpillars (herbivores, pollinators)
  • tephritid fruit flies (fruit feeders)
  • litter-dwelling ants (various roles)
  • bees (pollinators, pollenophages)
  • selected parasitoids
  • seed predators

Our different protocols for baseline survey and arthropod monitoring include:

  • light traps (moths, termites, and other assemblages)
  • Winkler extraction of litter (ants)
  • McPhail traps (fruit-flies)
  • baits (bees)
  • transect sampling for termites and butterflies

Go to the Arthropod Monitoring Protocols Page by clicking here.

  • Research Coordinator:Yves Basset (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute)
  • Barro Colorado Island research assistants: Barro Colorado Island research assistants: Filonila Perez, Ricardo Bobadilla, Yacksecari Lopez & José Alejandro Ramirez
  • Khao Chong research assistants: Pitoon Kongnoo, Thana Thongrod, Manat Reungaew & Wannapa Somboonsang
  • Barro Colorado Island: Cheslavo Korytkowski (University of Panama), Héctor Barrios (University of Panama), David
    Roubik (Smithsonian Tropical ResearchInstitute), Sofia Gripenberg (University of Turku), Owen Lewis (university of
    Oxford) & Joe Wright (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute)
  • Khao Chong: Naomi Pierce (Harvard University), David Lohman (National University of Singapore), Rod Eastwood (Harvard University), Sarayudh Bunyavejchewin (Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation), Watana Sakchoowong (Department of National Parks), and the staff of the Khao Chong Forest Insect Ecology Research Project
  • Wanang: Vojtech Novotny (Czech Academy of Sciences), George Weiblen (University of Minnesota), Scott Miller (Smithsonian Institution), and staff of the New Guinea Binatang Research Center
  • Yasuni: David Donoso (Escuela Politécnica Nacional), Maria Fernanda Checa (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador)
  • Rabi: Tim Bonebrake, Alfonso Alonso
  • Xishunangbanna: Aki Nakamura
  • Bukit Timah: Mark Wong
  • Tai Po Kau & Dinghushan: Tim Bonebrake, Benoit Guénard Chung-Lim Luk (University of Hong Kong)

Héctor Barrios (Panama)
Yves Basset (Panama)
Stuart Davies (USA)
Konrad Fiedler (Austria)
Jefferson Hall (Panama)
Rhett Harrison (Malaysia)
Allen Herre (Panama)
Mike Kaspari (USA)
Roger Kitching (Australia)
Cheslavo Korytkowski (Panama)
Maurice Leponce (Belgium)
Thomas Lewinsohn (Brazil)
Owen Lewis (UK)
Charles Lydeard (USA)
Scott Miller (USA)
Allen Norrbom (USA)
Vojtech Novotny (Czech Republic)
Evandro Oliveira (Brazil)
Naomi Pierce (USA)
Montira Pongsiri (USA)
Servio Ribeiro (Brazil)
Tomas Roslin (Finland)
David Roubik (Panama)
Jason Tylianakis (New Zealand)
Joe Wright (Panama)