Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gleanings from the Kunming conference - ECO-TROP

I've promised some posts about what I learned in Kunming during the International Barcode of Life Conference. Lot's of exciting new research ideas, interesting projects and astonishing results.

Let's start with a field school that integrates DNA Barcoding into an educational program that develops a census of invertebrate diversity in a National Park in Gabon.

Gabon is considered one of the world's major biodiversity hotspots. The forests and savannas covering most of the country are popular for their enigmatic species of vertebrates and higher plants. However, as usual, 
invertebrates are poorly known and as a consequence generally absent from conservation plans and strategies. DNA Barcoding seems to be the ideal tool to help with documenting basic descriptive metrics of invertebrate diversity (e.g. species richness, spatial or temporal turnover). 

Back in 2011, the first edition of the “field school in tropical ecology and palaeoecology” (ECO-TROP) was organized  in the National Park La Lopé (Ogoué Ivindo region) with the participation of several institutions from France*

The organizers think that DNA Barcoding is an unique educational tool to raise students’ awareness that can also assist and hopefully promote the future census and description of the local diversity. DNA Barcoding represents a central theme of this successful training program, strongly emphasizing its potential for the documentation of biodiversity in poorly known and hyperdiverse groups of invertebrates. 

Undergraduate students students from universities in France and Gabon are introduced to common invertebrate sampling methods which are routinely used in studies on biodiversity, ecology and palaeoecology in intertropical environments. The field course takes into account the lack of taxonomic information for these organisms and illustrates – both in the field, during short seminars and lab work sessions – the strength of an integrative approach to taxonomy (morphology and DNA), but also the value of a multidisciplinary approach by integrating ecological observations and measurements (e.g. soil profiles, vegetation structure), geographical factors at various scales (through aerial and satellite image analyses). Students also learn about the influence of past human occupation in these areas and their impact on the environment.

The ECO-TROP field school runs annually, with the prospect of moving to other National Parks of the country. The expectation is that all editions of ECO-TROP will significantly contribute to the knowledge of Gabon’s invertebrate biodiversity and, more importantly, to equip young field biologists with a solid understanding of ecological and conservational issues in relation to biological diversity, and in particular on the importance of invertebrates in ecosystems. 

h/t Thibaud Decaens

*Université de Rouen, Institut pour la Recherche et le Développement (IRD), Université de Rennes, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) – and Gabon – Agence Nationale de Parc Nationaux (ANPN), Université de Masuku (USTM), World Conservation Society (WCS), Complexe Educatif Docteur Alphonse Mackanga Missandzou (CEDAMM), Institut de Recherche en Agronomie Forestière (CENAREST–IRAF)

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