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Conservation and biological monitoring of tropical forests: the role of parataxonomists

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 20:22 authored by Yves Bassett, Vojtech Novotny, Scott E Miller, George D Weiblen, Olivier Missa, Alan StewartAlan Stewart
1. The demise of tropical rainforests will lead to a large-scale extinction of genetic diversity, particularly of arthropods. Curtailing these trends might be facilitated by (a) reducing rates of habitat loss and degradation, (b) enhancing systematics and (c) increasing the flow of primary information on tropical biodiversity. 2. We emphasize the need to examine alternative approaches that could generate a constant stream of data from tropical ecosystems. We argue that data collecting by parataxonomists (local assistants trained by professional biologists) represents one of the most efficient approaches to the study of tropical ecosystems available to date. 3. Parataxonomists can provide high-quality biological specimens and ecological information; statistical power will be high due to large sample sizes of data; database growth will be rapid and results will be published in a timely manner; and there will be collateral education of local people in conservation biology by the parataxonomists themselves. 4. We stress that training local parataxonomists to inventory and monitor biodiversity is a promising and efficient strategy that deserves more attention in conservation biology. In particular, it may be one of the most feasible approaches for the biological monitoring of small and cryptic organisms in species-rich environments, such as invertebrates in tropical rainforests. 5. Permanent botanical plots yield a wealth of data on the organization of tropical forests and their numbers should be increased to monitor tropical biodiversity. Likewise, augmenting the number of local parataxonomist groups in various tropical countries and networking these contingents to monitor functionally diverse taxa may provide an efficient biological monitoring system in tropical forests.


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  • Published


Journal of Applied Ecology







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Department affiliated with

  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications


Arose from authors' collective experience with training parataxonomists to conduct research in three tropical countries. AJAS contribution arose from collaborative research with Novotny using parataxonomists in Papua New Guinea funded by Darwin Initiative. Instrumental paper in parataxonomy subsequently becoming widely-adopted method for studying hyper-diverse ecological communities in the tropics.

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