A decade of monitoring shows the dynamics of a conserved Atlantic tropical forest

Characterised with its immense biodiversity and high levels of endemism, the Atlantic Tropical Forest has been facing serious anthropogenic threats over the last several decades, demanding for such activities and their effects to be closely studied and monitored as part of the forest dynamics.

Cattle farming, expanding agricultural land areas and mining have reduced the Atlantic Forest to many small patches of vegetation. As a result, important ecosystem services, such as carbon stock, are steadily diminishing as the biomass decreases.

Brazilian researchers, led by Dr. Écio Souza Diniz, Federal University of Viçosa, spent a decade monitoring a semi-deciduous forest located in an ecological park in Southeast Brazil. Their observations are published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.

The team surveyed two stands within the forest to present variations in the structure and diversity of the plants over time, along with their dynamics, including mortality and establishment rates. They based their findings on the most abundant tree species occurring within each stand.

At the forest stands, the most abundant and important species for biomass accumulation are concluded to be trees larger than 20 cm in diameter, which characterise advanced successional stage within the forest.

“It is fundamental that opportunities to monitor conserved sites of the Atlantic Forest are taken, so that studies about their dynamics are conducted in order to better understand how they work,” note the scientists.

“The information from such surveys could improve the knowledge about the dynamics at anthropised and fragmented sites compared with protected areas.”

In order to encourage further research into the composition, diversity and structure of the Atlantic Forest over time and the subsequent contributions to the preservation of this threatened ecosystem, the authors made their data publicly available. The datasets, including species occurrences, are now openly accessible via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility(GBIF) and the biodiversity informatics data standard Darwin Core.


Original source:

Diniz ES, Carvalho W, Santos R, Gastauer M, Garcia P, Fontes M, Coelho P, Moreira A, Menino G, Oliveira-Filho A (2017) Long-term monitoring of diversity and structure of two stands of an Atlantic Tropical Forest. Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e13564. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.5.e13564

Effects of soil and drainage on the savanna vegetation in the northern Brazilian Amazonia

It is a well-known fact that environmental factors such as soil texture and drainage determine to a very large degree the vegetation appearance, richness and composition at any site. However, there has been little research on how these variables influence the flora in the marvellous savannas – large open areas characterised by a complex and unique network of natural resources and life forms.

Consequently, a Brazilian research team, led by Dr. Maria Aparecida de Moura Araújo, Universidade Federal de Roraima, investigated the hydro-edaphic conditions in the savanna areas in the northern Brazilian Amazonia. Their study, complete with an openly available and ready for re-use dataset, is published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.  

Image 1_Annonaceae_Xylopia aromatica_treeIn the course of the Program for Biodiversity Research, managed by the Brazilian government, the scientists sampled 20 permanent plots in two savanna areas in the state of Roraima, located in the northern of the Brazilian Amazon. As a result, the team reports a total of 128 plant species classified into 34 families from three savanna habitats with different levels of hydro-edaphic restrictions.

Amongst the various factors playing a role in the soil characteristics of the area, are the tectonic events and past climatic fluctuations which have occurred in the most recent period of the Cenozoic era. Paleo, as well as modern fires are likely to be other culprits for the specific conditions.

In conclusion, the authors suggest that the most restrictive savanna habitats – the wet grasslands, represent the home to less structurally complex plants, compared to the well-drained shrubby localities.

“The present study highlights the environmental heterogeneity and the biological importance of Roraima’s savanna regarding the conservation of natural resources from the Amazon,” say the scientists.

Image 2_Convolvulaceae_Merremia aturensis_herb“In addition, it points out the need for greater investment in floristic inventories associated with greater diversification of sites, since this entire ecosystem has been rapidly modified by agribusiness.”

Licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC-BY 4.0) and available in a Darwin Core Archive DwC-A format; the complete dataset is openly available via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).


Original source:
Araújo M, Rocha A, Miranda I, Barbosa R (2017) Hydro-edaphic conditions defining richness and species composition in savanna areas of the northern Brazilian Amazonia. Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e13829. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.5.e13829

Shadow-loving insect named after Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish

Tuomas Holopainen, the multi-talented musician and founder of the symphonic metal band Nightwish, is also a full-blooded nature person. This gave conservation biologist Jukka Salmela of Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland an idea for the name of a new species he found in Finland. Discovered in eastern Lapland during an insect survey, the fungus gnat was given the scientific name Sciophila holopaineni after Tuomas. The new species is described in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.

“I am very, very touched. This is the highest honour a nature nerd like me can receive,” Tuomas Holopainen replied after Jukka, who collected and described the fungus gnat, asked him for permission to name the species after him.

The idea for the name came up to Salmela while he was thinking about the habitat and appearance of the species. Then, he recalled Tuomas Holopainen’s interest in the natural sciences.

So far, the new species of fungus gnat has been only known from two locations: the Törmäoja Natura Area in Savukoski, eastern Lapland, and a meadow close to the White Sea, Russian Karelia.

The dark and beautiful gnat thrives in shadowy environments. In Törmäoja, it was caught in a river gulch next to the river source, while hiding under the shelter of the forest. Salmela proposes ‘tuomaanvarjokainen’ as the common Finnish name, inspired by the latest Nightwish album. After all, the themes of the album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, are evolution and the diversity of nature.

Fungus gnats are flies, which feed on dead wood or fungi. Some of the larvae are predaceous. At current count, there are almost 800 species in Finland and about 1,000 in the Nordic countries. In fact, the Fennoscandia region is one of Europe’s biodiversity hotspots for this group of insects.

The Tuomas Holopainen’s species is only one of the eight new flies described in the study. Among them are the Boletina norokorpii fungus gnat, named after Docent Yrjö Norokorpi and known only from Ylitornio; Phronia reducta, which inhabits Salla and Siberia; and Orfelia boreoalpina found in Törmäoja and the German Alps.

The Parks & Wildlife Finland of Metsähallitus is responsible for the management and species surveys of the State’s nature reserves. The collected data is needed in activities such as assessing the status of biodiversity, the protection of species, and planning the management and use of the reserves. Insects are as good an indicator of the state of the natural environment as better-known vertebrates or plants. The diversity of insect species forms part of natural biodiversity and is necessary to human well-being.


Original source:

Salmela J, Kolcsár L (2017) New and poorly known Palaearctic fungus gnats (Diptera, Sciaroidea). Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e11760. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.5.e11760

Gehry’s Biodiversity Museum – favorite attraction for the butterflies and moths in Panama

Ahead of Gehry’s Biodiversity Museum‘s opening in October 2014, PhD candidate Patricia Esther Corro Chang, Universidad de Panama, studied the butterflies and moths which had been attracted by the bright colours of the walls and which were visiting the grounds of the tourist site.

The resulting checklist, published in the open access journal Biodiversity Data Journal, aims to both evaluate the biodiversity and encourage the preservation and development of the Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) and the four Causeway Islands. The name of the islands derives from their being linked to each other and the mainland via a causeway made of rocks excavated during the construction of the Panama Canal.

The researcher reports a total of six butterfly and eight moth families, identified from the 326 specimens collected over the course of 10 months from the botanical garden of the museum and adjacent areas. They represent a total of 52 genera and 60 species.

IMG_0096Interestingly, the eye-catching bright colours of the walls of the museum seem to play an important role for the insect fauna of the area. Not only are numerous butterflies and moths being attracted to the site, but they also express curious behaviour. On various occasions, for example, a species of skipper butterfly was seen to show a clear preference for yellowish surfaces. In their turn, a number of butterfly predators, such as jumping spiders, are also frequenting the walls.

The article in the journal provides knowledge of the butterfly and moth fauna at the mainly vegetated study area, located on a narrow strip of water distant from the city of Panama.


Original source:

Corro-Chang P (2017) Behavioural notes and attraction on Lepidoptera around the Gehry’s Biodiversity Museum (Causeway, Calzada de Amador, Panamá, República de Panamá). Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e11410. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.5.e11410

Rarely-seen event of ant brood parasitism by scuttle flies video-documented

While many species of scuttle flies are associated with ants, their specific interactions with their hosts are largely unknown. Brood parasitism (attacking the immature stages, rather than the adult ants), for example, is an extremely rarely observed and little-studied phenomenon. However, a research team from the USA and Brazil, led by Dr. Brian Brown, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, have recently video-documented two such occasions. The observations are published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.

One of the videos, taken in Brazil, shows female scuttle flies attacking ants evacuating their nest. Having had their colony exposed, worker ants try to carry the brood to the nearest shelter. The flies follow these workers on foot, and bump into them in attempt to make them drop the larvae. The scientists have provided a video of an ant which, when harassed, left a larva in a partially exposed position and fled. Immediately, the fly attacked the larva, laying an egg inside its body. The fact that the flies attack the relatively soft-bodied larvae explains the puzzling structure of the ovipositor (egg-layer) of this species (Ceratoconus setipennis), which appears much less hardened than the ovipositor of species attacking adult ants. As a result of the present observation, however, their association with ants is no longer a mystery.

The second footage, filmed in Costa Rica, shows an undescribed species of scuttle fly (genus Apocephalus) that fly above the ants. When they spot a worker carrying brood, it would plunge down to it, approach the ant from behind and land on the (in this case) pupa. Then, it flips over onto its back, keeping the pupa between itself and the ant, while it lays an egg into the pupa from an upside-down position.

“The video documentation of two very different types of brood parasitism of ant species by scuttle flies was recorded in two countries within just a few months of one another,” conclude the authors. “This hints at the many remarkable behaviors of phorid flies that may still await discovery by the patient observer. It appears brood parasitism may not be as rare as was once assumed, and that there may be a tremendous amount of information to uncover about these behaviors.”


Original source:

Brown B, Hash J, Hartop E, Porras W, Amorim D (2017) Baby Killers: Documentation and Evolution of Scuttle Fly (Diptera: Phoridae) Parasitism of Ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Brood. Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e11277. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.5.e11277

Robust rattan palm assessed as Endangered, new Species Conservation Profile shows

An African rattan palm species has recently been assessed as Endangered, according to the IUCN Red List criteria. Although looking pretty robust at height of up to 40 m, the palm is restricted to scattered patches of land across an area of 40 km². It grows in reserves and conservation areas in Ghana and a single forest patch in Côte d’Ivoire. Its Species Conservation Profile is published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal by an international research team, led by Thomas Couvreur, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), France, in collaboration with the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, and the Conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Geneva, Switzerland.

oo_106255The rattan palm is confined to moist evergreen forests with high rainfall, located at 100 to 200 meters above sea level. The species is poorly known, yet it is likely very rare judging from the limited amount of forest habitat remaining across its range. Furthermore, the known populations are isolated from each other by large distances, which makes them particularly vulnerable.

Even though there are gaps of knowledge concerning the rattan palm species, the research team conclude that it is most likely currently declining, due to habitat loss, fragmentation and over-harvesting. Often mistaken for a sister species, commonly used in trade, the stems of the endangered species are largely used in furniture production. When longitudinally split into ribbons, the canes are also used as ropes for thatching, for making baskets and sieves, and to make traps.

“As with most African rattan species, there is inadequate information on the international trade, but it is likely to be negligible,” explain the scientists.

“Conservation measures are urgently needed to protect the habitat of this species and to control the unsustainable harvest of the stems. A promising solution might be sustainable cultivation of rattans to avoid the exploitation of wild populations,” suggests Ariane Cosiaux (IRD), the lead author of the study currently based in Cameroon.

With their present paper, the authors make use of a specialised novel publication type feature, called Species Conservation Profile, created by Biodiversity Data Journal, to provide scholarly credit and citation for the IUCN Red List species page, as well as pinpoint the population trends and the reasons behind them.


Original source:

Cosiaux A, Gardiner L, Ouattara D, Stauffer F, Sonké B, Couvreur T (2017) An endangered West African rattan palm: Eremospatha dransfieldii. Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e11176. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.5.e11176

Biodiversity project in Azores delivers detailed abundance data for 286 arthropod species

In 1999, a long-term biodiversity project started at the Azores Islands (Portugal, Atlantic Ocean), the Biodiversity of Arthropods from the Laurisilva of the Azores (BALA) project (1999-2004). Its aim was to obtain detailed distributional and abundance data for a large fraction of arthropod fauna, living in all remaining native forests at seven of the Azores Islands.

After the first successful sampling of 100 sites at 18 native forest fragments over those five years, a second survey was accomplished in 2010-2011, where two sites per fragment were re-sampled. Now, Dr Paulo A.V. Borges and colleagues publish the complete list of the 286 species identified, including many species described as new to science in the open access journal Biodiversity Data Journal. They have also added detailed information on their distribution and abundance.

The resulting database has inspired the publication of many studies in the last ten years, including macroecological studies evaluating the abundance, spatial variance and occupancy of arthropods, the effects of disturbance and biotic integrity of the native forests on arthropod assemblages and the performance of species richness estimators.

image-2Moreover, these data allowed the ranking of conservation priorities for the fauna of the Azores, and allowed the estimation of extinction debt (the species likely to be wiped out because of past events) in the Azores. The present study has also inspired the development of the Azorean Biodiversity Portal and the Azores Island Lab.

The study stresses the need to expand the approaches applied in these projects to other habitats in the Azores, and, more importantly, to other less thoroughly surveyed taxonomic groups (e.g. Diptera and Hymenoptera).

“These steps are fundamental for getting a more accurate assessment of the biodiversity in the Azores archipelago, and we hope that can inspire similar biodiversity surveys at other islands,” say the authors.


Original source:

Borges P, Gaspar C, Crespo L, Rigal F, Cardoso P, Pereira F, Rego C, Amorim I, Melo C, Aguiar C, André G, Mendonça E, Ribeiro S, Hortal J, Santos A, Barcelos L, Enghoff H, Mahnert V, Pita M, Ribes J, Baz A, Sousa A, Vieira V, Wunderlich J, Parmakelis A, Whittaker R, Quartau J, Serrano A, Triantis K (2016) New records and detailed distribution and abundance of selected arthropod species collected between 1999 and 2011 in Azorean native forests. Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e10948. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.4.e10948

Efficiency of insect biodiversity monitoring via Malaise trap samples and DNA barcoding

The massive decline of over 75% insect biomass reported from Germany between 1989 and 2013 by expert citizen scientists proves the urgent need for new methods and standards for fast and wide-scale biodiversity assessments. If we cannot understand species composition, as well as their diversity patterns and reasons behind them, we will fail not only to predict changes, but also to take timely and adequate measures before species go extinct.

An international team of scientists belonging to the largest and connected DNA barcoding initiatives (iBOL, GBOL, BFB), evaluated the use of DNA barcode analysis applied to large samples collected with Malaise traps as a method to rapidly assess the arthropod fauna at two sites in Germany between May and September.

One Malaise trap (tent-like structure designed to catch flying insects by attracting them to its walls and then funneling them into a collecting bottle) was set in Germany’s largest terrestrial protected natural reserve Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald in Bavaria. Located in southeast Germany, from a habitat perspective, the park is basically a natural forest. The second trap was set up in western Germany adjacent to the Middle River Rhine Valley, located some 485 kilometers away from the first location. Here, the vegetation is eradicated annually due to St. Martin’s fires, which occur every November. Their findings are published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.

DNA barcoding enables the identification of a collected specimen by comparing its BIN (Barcode Index Number) against the BOLD database. In contrast to evaluation using traditional morphological approaches, this method takes significantly less experience, time and effort, so that science can easily save up on decades of professional work.

However, having analyzed DNA barcodes for 37,274 specimens equal to 5,301 different BINs (i.e., species hypotheses), the entomologists managed to assign unambiguous species names to 35% of the BINs, which pointed to the biggest problem with DNA barcoding for large-scale insect inventories today, namely insufficient coverage of DNA barcodes for Diptera (flies and gnats) and Hymenoptera (bees and wasps) and allied groups. As the coverage of the reference database for butterflies and beetles is good, the authors showcase how efficient the workflow for the semi-automated identification of large sample sizes to species and genus level could be.

In conclusion, the scientists note that DNA barcoding approaches applied to large-scale samplings collected with Malaise traps could help in providing crucial knowledge of the insect biodiversity and its dynamics. They also invite their fellow entomologists to take part and help filling the gaps in the reference library. The authors also welcome taxonomic experts to make use of the unidentified specimens they collected in the study, but also point out that taxonomic decisions based on BIN membership need to be made within a comparative context, “ideally including morphological data and also additional, independent genetic markers”. Otherwise, the grounds for the decision have to be clearly indicated.

The study is conducted as part of the collaborative Global Malaise Trap Program (GMTP), which involves more than 30 international partners. The aim is to provide an overview of arthropod diversity by coupling the large-scale deployment of Malaise traps with the use of specimen-based DNA barcoding to assess species diversity.

Sequence analyses were partially defrayed by funding from the government of Canada through Genome Canada and the Ontario Genomics Institute in support of the International Barcode of Life project. The German Barcode of Life project (GBOL) is generously supported by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (FKZ 01LI1101 and 01LI1501) and the Barcoding Fauna Bavarica project (BFB) was supported by a 10-year grant from the Bavarian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Art.



Original source:

Geiger M, Moriniere J, Hausmann A, Haszprunar G, Wägele W, Hebert P, Rulik B (2016) Testing the Global Malaise Trap Program – How well does the current barcode reference library identify flying insects in Germany? Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e10671. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.4.e10671

Foreign beetle species recorded for the first time in Canada thanks to citizen science

With social networks abound, it is no wonder that there is an online space where almost anyone can upload a photo and report a sighting of an insect. Identified or not, such public records can turn out to be especially useful — as in the case of an Old World beetle species — which appears to have recently entered Canada, and was recently discovered with the help of the BugGuide online portal and its large citizen scientist community.

Having identified the non-native rove beetle species Ocypus nitens in Ontario, Canada, based on a single specimen, author Dr Adam Brunke, affiliated with the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes, Ottawa, sought additional data to confirm his discovery.

Eventually, he found them in the citizen-generated North American digital insect collection BugGuide, created and curated by an online community of naturalists, insect enthusiasts and entomologists. After he verified as many as 26 digital photographs to be records of the same species, he concluded that the rove beetle has expanded its distribution to two new locations — Ontario, its first in Canada, and the state of Vermont, USA. His study is published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.

The species O. nitens is a fairly large rove beetle measuring between 12 and 20 mm in length and visibly distinguished by the characteristic form of the head and relatively short forewings. Furthermore, the insect is quite easy to spot because it prefers living around humans, often being spotted in woodlots and backyards.

As a result of the hundreds of years of Transatlantic trade, many species have been transported accidentally among various produce to subsequently adapt and establish on the other side of the ocean. While the rove beetle species O. nitens was first reported from the Americas in 1944, it was not until the turn of the new millennium that it escaped the small area in New England, USA, which had so far been its only habitat on the continent. Then, its distributional range began to rapidly expand. It is unlikely that the presence of this rove beetle, especially in Ontario, has long remained undetected, because of thorough and multiple sampling initiatives undertaken by professionals and students in the past.

The effect of the newly recorded species on the native rove beetles is still unknown. On the other hand, there are observations that several related beetles have experienced a drop in their populations in comparison to the records from the beginning of the century.

“Citizen-generated distributional data continues to be a valuable ally in the detection of adventive insects and the study of their distributional dynamics,” concludes the author.


Original source:

Brunke A (2016) First detection of the adventive large rove beetle Ocypus nitens (Schrank) in Canada and an update of its Nearctic distribution using data generated by the public. Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e11012. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.4.e11012

LifeWatchGreece launches a Special Paper Collection for Greek biodiversity research

Developed in the 1990s and early 2000s, LifeWatch is one of the large-scale European Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) created to support biodiversity science and its developments. Its ultimate goal is to model Earth’s biodiversity based on large-scale data, to build a vast network of partners, and to liaise with other high-quality and viable research infrastructures (RI).

Being one of the founding LifeWatch member states, Greece has not only implemented LifeWatchGreece, but it is all set and ready to “fulfill the vision of the Greek LifeWatch RI and establish it as the biodiversity Centre of Excellence for South-eastern Europe”, according to the authors of the latest Biodiversity Data Journal‘s Editorial: Dr Christos Arvanitidis, Dr Eva Chatzinikolaou, Dr Vasilis Gerovasileiou, Emmanouela Panteri, Dr Nicolas Bailly, all affiliated with the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) and part of the LifeWatchGreece Core Team, together with Nikos Minadakis, Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (FORTH), Alex Hardisty, Cardiff University, and Dr Wouter Los, University of Amsterdam.

lwg-presentationMaking use of the technologically advanced open access Biodiversity Data Journal and its Collections feature, the LifeWatchGreece team is publishing a vast collection of peer-reviewed scientific outputs, including software descriptions, data papers, taxonomic checklists and research articles, along with the accompanying datasets and supporting material. Their intention is to demonstrate the availability and applicability of the developed e-Services and Virtual Laboratories (vLabs) to both the scientific community, as well as the broader domain of biodiversity management.

The LifeWatchGreece Special Collection is now available in Biodiversity Data Journal, with a series of articles highlighting key contributions to the large-scale European LifeWatch RI. The Software Description papers explain the LifeWatchGreece Portal, where all the e-Services and the vLabs provided by LifeWatchGreece RI are hosted; the Data Services based on semantic web technologies, which provide detailed and specialized search paths to facilitate data mining; the R vLab which can be used for a series of statistical analyses in ecology, based on an integrated and optimized online R environment; and the Micro-CT vLab, which allows the online exploration, dissemination and interactive manipulation of micro-tomography datasets.

The LifeWatchGreece Special Collection also includes a series of taxonomic checklists (preliminary, updated and/or annotated); a series of data papers presenting historical and original datasets; and a selection of research articles reporting on the outcomes, methodologies and citizen science initiatives developed by collaborating research projects, which have shared human, hardware and software resources with LifeWatchGreece RI.

LifeWatchGreece relies on a multidisciplinary approach, involving several subsidiary initiatives; collaborations with Greek, European and World scientific communities; specialised staff, responsible for continuous updates and developments; and, of course, innovative online tools and already established IT infrastructure.


Original source:

Arvanitidis C, Chatzinikolaou E, Gerovasileiou V, Panteri E, Bailly N, Minadakis N, Hardisty A, Los W (2016) LifeWatchGreece: Construction and operation of the National Research Infrastructure (ESFRI). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e10791. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.4.e10791

Additional information:

This work has been supported by the LifeWatchGreece infrastructure (MIS 384676), funded by the Greek Government under the General Secretariat of Research and Technology (GSRT), ESFRI Projects, National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).