Insect Communities

New publication on biodiversity of Bimbia forest

We have collaborated on a recently published study on biodiversity of the Bimbia Bonadikombo Community Forest (BBCF) in southwestern Cameroon. BBCF is one of the very last remnants of a unique Afrotropical habital of coastal forests, making it an important area for biodiversity conservation on the continental scale. However, almost no extensive data on its biodiversity existed until recently, besides surveys of plants and large mammals. In our study, we focused on biodiversity of trees, birds and fruit-feeding butterflies standardisedly collected in series of permanent plots. The comparison with lowland forests of the near Mount Cameroon National Park confirmed its high importance for the regional biodiversity conservation as BBCF harbours a relatively large part of species not occuring in our study plots within the national park. Unfortunately, BBCF is under urgent threat of ongoing intensive logging and conversion into farmlands even within a small areas designated for the non-interventional management, nature conservation and eco-tourism.

Marianne Espeland visited us

Recently, Marianne Espeland from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn has visited our group. Marianne is  head of their Lepidoptera section and an old friend. At both Charles University and Institute of Entomology, she gave seminars on her hottest results from phylogenetical research of Lepidoptera on various levels, from detailed studies of some blues and skippers up to relationships between the main lepidopteran groups. She also went through our butterfly collection and still had enough time for discussions and general enjoying of the spring weather in Czechia.

Vincent and Sylvain at Afrotropical Lepidoptera Workshop

Last week, Vincent and Sylvain attended the 3rd Afrotropical Lepidoptera Worshop meeting organised in the Centre ValBio, a research station close to the Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Vincent presented our research of patterns of lepidopteran biodiversity along the Mount Cameroonian altitudinal gradient, while Sylvain has introduced his first preliminary results on the patterns of biodiversity along a south African gradient of environmental productivity. This workshop brought together numerous taxonomists and ecologists working on Afrotropical Lepidoptera and thus allowed rich experience sharing and discussions. Simultaneously, the workshop included several Lepidoptera sampling sessions in the Park with rather unexplored biodiversity. Altogether, it was a great opportunity for Sylvain and Vincent to exchange new ideas, as well as to learn new methods of collecting and storing of moths.

Vincent presenting results of his dissertation.

Yannick at the European Conference of Tropical Ecology

Yannick during his presentation © Julie Desmist

From 26th till 29th March, Yannick attended the European Conference of Tropical Ecology in Paris, France. During this scientific meeting, he gave a talk on the role of seasonality in shaping the pollination networks in the montane forests of Mount Cameroon, as well as in the validity of the pollination syndrome hypothesis. Additionally, he also presented a poster showing some new results from our case study on pollination system of Hypoxis camerooniana.  

Both the talk and poster were well received and during fruitful discussions after the session we have gotten useful comments on how to move forward with our data analyses. After the conference, Yannick spend a day visiting the incredible collections of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Looking back it has been a successful conference and visit to Paris!

Jan’s visit of the Natural History Museum in Budapest

Chrysodeixis chalcites, found on Mount Cameroon. © Jan Mertens

Last week, Jan spent at the Natural History Museum in Budapest where a small part of our Cameroonian Lepidoptera material is stored under the watchful eye of Dr. László Ronkay. The museum has an impressive collection of Noctuidae of which our Plusiinae make up a small part. The digitisation and identification of these remaining specimens was one of the last required steps to finalize our dataset of the Lepidopteran traits along the altitudinal gradient.

Establishing a new project in the Kruger NP

The past three weeks, Rob has spent in the Kruger National Park in South Africa where he has worked on a project led by Prof. Petr Pyšek and Prof. David Storch, in collaboration with Dr. Llewellyn Foxcroft. The project funded by the Czech Science Foundation aim to disclose effects of rivers and large herbivores on biodiversity dynamics of several different groups of organisms in subtropical and tropical savannas. Our group will be responsible mainly for sampling of data on insects, namely moths. This time, we have been establishing study plots (60 across the whole national park), which will be sampled in the next three years, … and enjoyed the magnificent landscape and wildlife of Kruger!

Our team establishing study plots in the Kruger National Park. © Martin Hejda

Back from Cameroon

Last weekend Jan, Yannick and Rob have come back from another expedition to Mount Cameroon. This time we focused on sampling of the lower half of its altitudinal gradient, covering all the flowering plant species in the communities. This brought more than double the amount of videos recorded in the upper elevations during the previous expedition. Turning the videos into datasets is our biggest challenge before our next (and last) expedition for this project in the rainy season.

Our team in the PlanteCam camp, Mount Cameroon. © Jan Mertens


Vincent’s stay in Vienna

Thanks to a mobility grant of the Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Vincent has spent the 4 last weeks at the University of Vienna, Austria. During the stay, he has started a collaboration with Prof. Konrad Fiedler at the Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research. Under his supervision, Vincent started analyzing our huge dataset of butterflies and moths sampled along along the altitudinal gradient of Mount Cameroon. Results of these analyses will form the core chapter(s) of his PhD thesis, hopefully submitted before the end of this year.

Main university building in Vienna, credit: Arved.

Radio reports from our Cameroonian pollination research

Nestoral, Kobe and Rob setting a camera on flowers of Cuviera.

During our ongoing expedition to Cameroon, a journalist of the Czech public scientific radio Český rozhlas Plus has joined us. He prepared a series of short reports on our work and on Cameroonian nature as a part of the “Adventure of science” series within the scientific Magazín Leonardo. The special episode of the magazine is here, a series of shorter reports on our research are here. In Czech only…

Currently, we are facing the last week in the field. We are finishing sampling of the last data on pollination systems in altitudes of about 1000 m a.s.l. Although the dry season is still in its end, we have already met a few strong rains and are thus starting to look forward to process the sampled data.

Another field trip to Cameroon

We are in Cameroon again, this time our arrivals are a bit chaotic, but within a week our team will be comprised of Štěpán, Rob, Yannick, Jan and Pavel Kratochvíl, our professional treeclimber. Our plan is to spend 6 weeks in the field in the lower elevations of Mount Cameroon and collect data on the local pollination networks. For part of this time, we will be accompanied by a journalist Ondřej Novák who will prepare a few short reports for the Czech public radio Český Rozhlas Plus about our research, as well as about the local nature. Although these will be in Czech only, you can follow a webpage of their scientific broadcast Magazín Leonardo, or their facebook page. The short reports from Cameroon should be on air daily between 5th and 9th February 2018.

Rob, Francis, Štepán and Yannick in front of our future research station currently growing in Bokwangwo.