Periodic Reporting for period 4 - Diversity6continents (Ecological determinants of tropical-temperate trends in insect diversity)
Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2021-09-30
We have been able to meet the goals of the project, obtaining and analysing six large data sets on plant-herbivore food webs from six continents. We have built a new canopy crane in Papua New Guinea which is now one of the premier facilities in the country that harbours 5% of global diversity but has seriously under-developed local academic community. Our field work also inspired and trained over 80 university students, interns, paraecologists and volunteers in six countries. Our findings have provided new insights into the ecological drivers of diversity and food web structure along latitudinal gradients.
We demonstrated parallel strategies of plant defence escalation and diversification against herbivores in diverse tropical rainforests and were able to partly predict plant-insect interactions from the phylogeny, ecology and species traits of the interacting taxa. We combined our globally distributed highly detailed censuses of forest food webs with community-level manipulative experiments in the tropics to demonstrate the top-down effects of herbivores on successional vegetation. Our inter-disciplinary study of ethnobiological knowledge in 392 indigenous languages used a novel quantitative approach to ethnobiology and language surveys and sounded alarm at the rapid decline of the inter-generational transfer of ethnobiological knowledge. We have significantly invigorated local ecological research in under-developed tropical countries of Cameroon, Papua New Guinea, and Panama, where we have trained and worked with 65 local paraecologists, research technicians and students. Many of them were recruited from the rainforest-dwelling indigenous communities. In Papua New Guinea we have developed the local research infrastructure by building the canopy crane, ranking among the most significant research facility in the country. We have recruited four PhD students from Papua New Guinea for the project. The crane has excellent potential for future use as it is a part of an informal latitudinal gradient of canopy cranes, from Japan through China, Malaysia and now Papua New Guinea to Australia.
The project was featured by media, particularly in Papua New Guinea and the Czech Republic with the stories about the newly build canopy crane. The results were disseminated in 26 popular articles and 19 participations at scientific conferences. The project was also featured in a six-part TV series produced by the Czech TV and in a documentary film about the canopy crane construction, both produced in English and Czech languages.