Skip to main content

ForestGEO Arthropod Initiative

Please click to enlarge each picture


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. We use standard and reproducible entomological methods that target population change, rather than activity levels.


The scientific community has been recently concerned about insect decline worldwide. Long-term, large-scale and multi-taxon monitoring is key to understanding what is happening and how we can conserve the “obscure” biodiversity. Several reports (2020 WWF Living report, Mongabay, etc.) acknowledge the Initiative as the only comprehensive insect monitoring program in the tropics.

ForestGEO sites involved and contacts:

Focal taxa:

  • ISOPTERA: all families (termites)
  • HEMIPTERA: Flatidae (flatids); Reduviidae (assasin bugs)
  • COLEOPTERA; Passalidae (bess beetles); Platypodinae (ambrosia beetles); Dynastinae (rhinoceros beetles); Pselaphinae (ant-loving beetles)
  • LEPIDOPTERA: Rhopalocera (butterflies); Geometridae (geometer moths); Arctiinae (tiger moths); Pyraloidea (pyralid moths); Saturniidae (silk moths)
  • DIPTERA: Tephritidae (fruit flies)
  • HYMENOPTERA : Formicidae (ants); Halictidae (nocturnal bees); Euglossini (orchid bees)

In Panama:

Studying the population dynamics of 22 focal groups of different ecology on Barro Colorado Island. In addition, smaller projects on insect taxonomy, DNA metabarcoding, insect thermal tolerance, seed predators, seedling herbivory and the fate of tropical pollinators, notably (see project pages). An insect collection with 250 drawers representing +75,000 pinned specimens, including +13,000 specimens sequenced for DNA barcoding. A database including for Panama 0.6 mio records related to +2,500 species and thousands of images. Thirty GB of DNA metabarcoding data also available, that are currently being mined.

The future:

Developing efficient and convenient protocols based on DNA metabarcoding to monitor the (probable) 25,000 arthropod species on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. Refine the ecology (and conservation) of tropical insects with satellite projects.

Key publications:

Basset, Y., Butterill, P.T., , Donoso, D.A., Lamarre, G.P.A., Souto-Vilaros, D., Perez, F., Bobadilla, R., Lopez, Y., Ramírez Silva, J.A. & Barrios, H. (2023) Abundance, occurrence and time series: long-term monitoring of social insects in a tropical rainforest. Ecological Indicators, 150, 110243.

Donoso, D.A., Basset, Y., Shik, J.Z., Forrister, D.L., Uquillas, A., Salazar Méndez , Y., Arizala, S., Polanco, P., Beckett, S., Dominguez G., D. & Barrios, H. 2022. Male ant reproductive investment in a seasonal wet tropical forest: consequences of future climate change. PLOs One, 17, e0266222.

Lamarre, G.P.A., Pardikes, N.A., Segar, S., Hackforth, C.N., Laguerre, M., Vincent, B., Lopez, Y., Perez, F., Bobadilla, R., Ramírez Silva, J.A., Basset, Y. 2022. More winners than losers over 12 years of monitoring tiger moths (Erebidae: Arctiinae) on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Biology Letters, 18, 20210519.

Roubik, D.W., Basset, Y., Lopez, Y., Bobadilla, R., Perez, F. & Ramírez Silva, J.A. 2021. Long-term (1979-2019) dynamics of protected orchid bees in Panama. Conservation Science and Practice, 3, e543.

Didham, R.K., Basset, Y., Collins, M., Leather, S.R.., Littlewood. N.A., Menz, M.H.M., Müller, J., Packer, L., Saunders, M.E., Schönrogge, K., Stewart, A.J.A., Yanoviak, S.P. & Hassall, C. 2020. Interpreting insect declines: seven challenges and a way forward. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 13, 103-114.

Lamarre, G.P.A., Fayle T.M., Segar, S.T., Laird-Hopkins, B., Nakamura, A., Souto-Vilarós,D.,  Watanabe, S. & Basset, Y. 2020. Monitoring tropical insects in the 21st century. Advances in Ecological Research, 62, 295-330.
Read more…

Basset, Y. & Lamarre, G.P.A. 2019. Toward a world that values insects. Science, 364, 1230-1231.
Read more…