Arthropods of Tropical Forests

Tropical forest canopies, leafy landscapes scorched by uv radiation and washed by torrential rains, house some of the most diverse but least understood creatures on our planet. And canopy biologists, pioneers of a very young science, are just beginning to describe this complex interface of plant and animal life. A major contribution to this field, Arthropods of Tropical Forests, a 490-page summary of state-of-the-art tropical entomology research, has just been released by Cambridge University Press.

This large-format edited volume, with foreword by Tom Lovejoy, includes contributions from 79 co-authors, a whos who of tropical entomology. The book treats distribution, resource use and what little is known of the life histories of tropical canopy insects and spiders.

Enormous advances in the field have been made since the first book on canopy arthropods was published six years ago. Direct insect observation and collection techniques (canopy access systems) now complement indirect techniques such as chemical canopy fogging with insecticides. The new book is bigger, but treats a narrower field, focusing exclusively on canopy organisms from tropical habitats.

Acutely conscious of the still gaping holes in our knowledge of the worlds largest group of macro-organisms, the authors propose some of the first generalizations about canopy arthropods, which beg to be tested in diverse tropical ecosystems.

Arthropods from extreme tropical canopy environments differ from understory dwellers, whereas in temperate forests the vertical distribution of insects is far more uniform where such specialized microclimates and their extraordinarily specific fauna do not exist. In Guyana, one team found that when canopy habitat is destroyed, canopy insects can't live in the understory; they are eliminated with their host trees.

The book sets the bases for understanding the function and behavior of canopy arthropods and underscores the need to deter

Contact: Dr. Yves Basset
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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