Low beta diversity of herbivorous insects in tropical forests

Novotny, Vojtech, Miller, Scott E., Hulcr, Jiri, Drew, Richard A I, Basset, Yves, Janda, Milan, Setliff, Gregory P., Darrow, Karolyn, Stewart, Alan J A, Auga, John, Isua, Brus, Molem, Kenneth, Manumbor, Markus, Tamtiai, Elvis, Mogia, Martin and Weiblen, George D. (2007) Low beta diversity of herbivorous insects in tropical forests. Nature, 448. pp. 692-695. ISSN 0028-0836

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Recent advances in understanding insect communities in tropical forests have contributed little to our knowledge of large-scale patterns of insect diversity, as incomplete taxonomic knowledge of many tropical species hinders the mapping of their distribution records. This impedes an understanding of global biodiversity patterns and explains why tropical insects are under-represented in conservation biology. Our study of approximately 500 species from three herbivorous guilds feeding on foliage (caterpillars, Lepidoptera), wood (ambrosia beetles, Coleoptera) and fruit (fruitflies, Diptera) found a low rate of change in species composition (beta diversity) across 75,000 square kilometres of contiguous lowland rainforest in Papua New Guinea, as most species were widely distributed. For caterpillars feeding on large plant genera, most species fed on multiple hosts of the same genera, so that even locally restricted plant species did not support endemic herbivores. Large plant genera represented a continuously distributed resource easily colonized by moths and butterflies over hundreds of kilometres. Low beta diversity was also documented in groups with differing host specificity (fruitflies and ambrosia beetles), suggesting that dispersal limitation does not have a substantial role in shaping the distribution of insect species in New Guinea lowland rainforests. Similar patterns of low beta diversity can be expected in other tropical lowland rainforests, as they are typically situated in the extensive low basins of major tropical rivers similar to the SepikRamu region of New Guinea.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: AJAS was one of 5 PIs directing the research, including training a team of parataxonomists who collected the raw data. Paper written jointly with other PIs. First demonstration of unexpectedly low beta diversity in three insect groups across large area of lowland rainforest. Reviewed by journals News & Views section.
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:23
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2012 15:46
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/31054
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