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ForestGEO Arthropod Initiative

The ForestGEO Arthropod Initiative is a long-term program monitoring change in abundance and composition of tropical insects. Based across the Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO), the Arthropod Initiative is collecting since 2009 continuous data on the abundance and composition of focal arthropod groups at seven tropical sites, in Ecuador, Panama, Thailand, China and Papua New Guinea.

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Thermal tolerance of tropical Lepidoptera

Our main objective seeks to understand the multiple responses of tropical Lepidoptera to ongoing and predicted climate changes. Our study system also includes reproducible field protocols, laboratory experiments (thermal and desiccation tolerance) and data modelling.

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Fate of tropical pollinators

Current evidence suggests insect pollinators to be undergoing population declines worldwide with catastrophic consequences to biodiversity and human crop production. These population declines are difficult to demonstrate using census data alone. High-throughput sequencing techniques such as RAD-seq allow to generate single nucleotide polymorphism datasets, permitting the estimation of population genetic parameters such as effective population size.

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DNA metabarcoding as monitoring tool

In the context of global change, molecular methods offer promising tools for lifting some of the taxonomic impediments and thus allowing for sound and low-cost biological monitoring. Molecular approaches present several advantages: first, individuals and species can often be identified by sequencing standard gene regions (DNA barcodes). Second, samples including many individuals and species can be treated by bulk methods and COI amplicons analyzed using high-throughput sequencing, “DNA metabarcoding”.

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Insect-plant interactions

Insect-plants interactions may also be disturbed by climate change but in tropical rainforests, they need to be documented and understood first. Recently, we studied the interaction between ants and leaf litter, seed predator interaction networks and insect herbivory on seedlings, taking advantage of vegetation data at ForestGEO sites.

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