Insect Communities

New paper on seasonality of rainforest butterflies and moths

Tropical ecosystems are often considered as highly stable environments with negligible seasonality. The opposite is true and many tropical biomes, including lowland rainforests, are strongly seasonal in both environmental conditions and dynamics of communities. This is evidenced also by our newest paper published in the Ecology and Evolution journal just two days ago. Based on our very intensive sampling of butterflies and moths in rainforests of the lower elevations of Mount Cameroon, we are showing the dynamics of their communities in relation to the local seasonal changes of dry and rainy periods. Although we are not covering the high wet season (the monthly precipitation exceeds 2 metres during that period), there is a strong seasonal turnover of community composition. Simultaneously, we are showing the dynamics of species richness: in most groups, species richness drops during rains and then rises towards the high dry season. Subsequently, diversity of some groups continues to increase towards the rain season beginning, whilst others reach their richness peak in the high dry season. Congratulations to Vincent’s first first-authored “big ecological paper”! Now, he is analysing how this seasonal dynamics influence elevational diversity patterns.

Euphaedra permixtum, a common fruit-feeding butterfly in the foothills of Mount Cameroon. © Jan Mertens

Full citation: Maicher V., Sáfián S., Murkwe M., Przybyłowicz Ł., Janeček Š., Fokam E.B., Pyrcz, T. & Tropek R. (2018) Flying between raindrops: Strong seasonal turnover of several Lepidoptera groups in lowland rainforests of Mount Cameroon. Ecology & Evolution

Sampling of moths (and bats) in Kruger

Sylvain, together with our guard Annoit, installing a bat recorder, a moth trap is in behind. ©R. Tropek

Sylvain and Rob have spent a bit over two weeks in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, they are coming back tomorrow. They have been sampling moths and recording bats for the larger project of Petr Pysek and David Storch focused on the role of seasonal rivers for dynamics of biodiversity in African savannas. Despite some initial difficulties caused by delivery delays of our equipment, the sampling was successful and they are bringing back moths and data from 30 plots in the southern part of the park. This material will be processed in the coming months, whilst Rob and Sylvain are already arranging the next sampling in February/March 2019.

Rob’s talk in Bonn

On Monday, Rob gave an invited talk at the Biological Colloquium of the Institute of Zoology, University of Bonn, Germany. He summarised our results of analysing almost 50 thousands butterflies and moths recorded during our sampling along the altitudinal gradient of Mount Cameroon between 2014 and 2017. Vincent and Sylvain, the two PhD students currently responsible for the analyses, helped with the talk preparation crucially. Altogether, it was for the first time we put all the data and results together into some concise synthesis. Simultaneously, Rob met our friend and collaborator Marianne Espeland from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig, and together discussed progress on various projects.

Beautiful building of the University of Bonn where Rob gave his talk.

The pilot transplant experiment successfully finished

Processing of transplaned organisms at Prunéřov fly ash lagoon. ©A. Landeira-Dabarca

Recently, we have finished the pilot experiment of transplant of zygopteran larvae and algae communities between a fly ash deposit and a sandpit. We were lucky to collect all cages during one of the last warm and sunny days of this autumn. All cages seemed alright, as well as their inhabitants. Although Andrea is still preparing the preliminary results, it seems we will be able to perform the full experiment next year!

Scandinavian Association for Pollination Ecology Conference

Robert, Yannick and Stepan (together with our close collaborators Petra Janečková, Jana Jersáková and Michael Bartoš) attended the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Scandinavian Association of Pollination Ecologists (SCAPE) held from Thursday 18 – Sunday 21 October 2018, in the beautiful Avon Ri Lakeshore Resort, Wicklow, Ireland. We have presented our fresh dataset from the upper elevations of Mount Cameroon: Rob introduced pollination networks, while Yannick focused on the role of floral traits in the interactions of plants and pollinators. The whole meeting had a very nice and friendly atmosphere and we are really glad to get into the international pollination community. We really enjoyed the conference with a lot of interesting talks, discussions, Irish beer and even Irish dancing.

Yannick presenting at SCAPE 2018. © J. Ollerton

Group meeting in the Ruda field station

During the last weekend, our group met in the Ruda field station. We welcomed several newcomers to our group (three new PhD students, one intern, check our Team page), the retreat programme was thus clear: to introduce each other and to socialise. In both, we succeeded! Each present group member presented her/his work, either previous or current. Simultaneously, Stepan introduced building of our new station in Buea, Cameroon. We also split for two trips: first part (mainly foreigners) visited fish harvest in the Rozmberk pond, the rest of us did the “traditional” hike to Vlkov village. Last but not least, we succeeded to finish a beer barrel, as well as a beer crate donated by Vincent by the lost bet. Altogether, the group retreat was successful and enjoyable and we are already looking forward to the next one!

Insect Community Ecology Group, as in the group meeting. © I. Šonský


New publication on biodiversity of moths in Gabon

During his previous master studies, Sylvain attended a two-weeks student expedition to Gabon, during which the students were systematically surveying local communities of moths. The collected material was partly identified and mostly barcoded and used for the survey of moth diversity in two different areas in Gabon. Few days ago, results of these survey have been published by the Genome journal, with Sylvain as the first author. Their results revealed how poorly known the Gabonese biodiversity is – for some groups, they found even more BINs (taxonomic units based on the genetic information only) than the known species richness from Gabon. Simultaneously, the paper also discuss differences between the sampled habitats and seasonal changes. Congratulations to Sylvain for his first first-authored paper!

Landscape of the Lope National Park in Gabon. © S. Delabye

Full citation: Delabye S. et al. (in press) Characterization and comparison of poorly known moth communities through DNA barcoding in two Afrotropical environments in GabonGenome.

A pilot transplant experiment in (post)industrial waters

We started the next part of our “post-industrial waters project” – an experimental transplant of selected organisms among fly ash deposits and post-mining sites. By moving selected species of arthropods and communities of algea among freshwater bodies, we want to explore how they flourish under differing levels of heavy metal pollution. Andrea Landeira-Dabarca from David Boukal’s group is responsible for these experiments and she has prepared the first pilot trial with zygopteran larvae, and both natural and laboratory communities of algea. Two weeks ago, the experimental cages (notice how carefully these were prepared by Andrea) were installed by the research team members. Andrea and Vojta Kolar have checked part of the algea transplants last week, it seems to work. We are going to check and collect all remaining cages in the coming week, a lot of curiosity and excitement how they work!

Cages for our pilot transplant experiment. ©A. Landeira-Dabarca

New paper on competition between African bees

Honeybee collecting pollen from Hypoestes aristata. © R. Tropek

Our short note on competition between two abundant species of eusocial beesApis mellifera (honeybee) and Meliplebeia ogouensis, in the Bamenda Highlands, Cameroon, has just been published in the Sociobiology journal. Whilst studying foraging patterns of the twoo bee species, we observed relatively high partitioning of visited flowers among the two species. Both species are considered as generalists, but at least in the short term their floral preferences are specialised and almost do not overlap. However, these preferences change phenologically, as well well as inter-anually.

Full citation: Tropek R., Padyšáková E., Janeček Š. (2018) Floral resources partitioning by two co-occurring eusocial bees in an Afromontane landscapeSociobiology 65: 527-530.

Global Biodiversity Conservation Conference in Prague

Last week, Rob, Hernani, Vincent, Lucka and Yannick attended the 5th Global Biodiversity Conservation Conference held at the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague-Suchdol. Rob was invited to give a talk entitled Vanishing keystones? How poaching of large mammals influences tropical biodiversity. In his talk he highlighted the importance of elephants and other large herbivores in shaping other communities, including plants and animals. He included recent results from our case study on Cameroonian forest elephants and their influence on Lepidopteran communities. These results were further highlighted in a poster presented by Vincent. Additionally, Lucka presented her thesis research on the influence of military disturbances on arthropod communities in the Brdy Mts. It has been a fruitful conservation conference with not only scientific contributions, but also practical experiences from conservationists.

Robert giving his talk on the importance of large herbivores for biodiversity.