Tending to the neglected diversity of beetles and Darwin wasps in Southwest China's “Lost World”

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Sagra femorata, Yunnan Province, China. Photo 2016 jianglei via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Beetles (Coleoptera) and Darwin wasps (Ichneumonidae) are both key players in major ecological processes such as decomposition, secondary seed dispersal and predation (parasitism). But taxonomic information and geographic distributions of both insect orders are both underrepresented when compared with the other insects in China's Yunnan Province, a hotspot of eastern Himalayan biodiversity. This project will increase available taxonomic and ecological information on these understudied and superdiverse groups of insects.

Numerous ecological and taxonomic studies have been conducted on insects along the elevational gradients in tropical, subtropical, and subalpine forests of Yunnan Province, yet these data have not been fully mobilized to be publicly available. The project team will prepare sampling-event data and checklists for the region's beetles and Darwin wasps, identifying previously collected specimens into genus or into species and employing DNA barcoding for newly collected specimens.

Disseminating knowledge from this first effort to make such data available will serve to demonstrate the significance of mobilizing data from Yunnan Province, support further taxonomic, conservation and ecological studies, and strengthen education and training programmes for high school, graduate, and post-graduate students.

Project progress

At final reporting the project achieved significant progress towards the planned beetle datasets. It published to GBIF five sampling events datasets and sequenced dung beetles from two datasets to identify the species.

During implementation the project successfully held two ‘Beetle taxonomy, sequencing, and ecology’ workshops (in 2021 and 2022) which were incorporated with the Advanced Field Course in Ecology and Conservation, held at XTBG. In addition to this it held a small training program for a selected group of people about extracting DNA from insect samples.

Other activities completed by the project include sharing and disseminating news about the project and its results through various social media platforms and events, such as the 8th International Canopy Conference in 2021. Two members of the project team also joined the BIFA capacity building workshop, for which one participant received certification.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and strict travel restrictions imposed in the project’s region and countries, project work was affected, and especially the Darwin wasp dataset deliverables were significantly impacted and delayed. The project sought to find alternative ways to overcome these issues by digitizing the wasp's data using images and meeting project collaborators online, however work was affected by the main IEHBR collaborator not being able to travel and participate onsite. Post project the project team envisage continuing its data publication efforts and work to update existing datasets.

€ {{ 18395 | localNumber }}
€ {{ 25680 | localNumber }}
1 September 2021 - 31 May 2023
Project identifier
Contact details

Thilina Nimalrathna
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology
Chinese Academy of Sciences
666303 Menglun