Documented declines in insect populations and the resulting ecological effects exemplify the environmental and societal challenges that tropical countries face from habitat degradation and the loss of associated biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Over the past 15 years, the project team has been documenting the consequences of land-use changes in Southeast Asia on biodiversity, particularly insects. Dung beetles (Scarabaeidae) are an important tool in such studies, as both bioindicators of habitat disturbance and surrogates indicating the abundance of less easily monitored mammals on whose waste they rely. Dung beetles also play an important role in healthy, functioning of ecosystems, where the services they provide include soil improvement, nutrient cycling, seed dispersal, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and control of human and livestock parasites.
Despite their ecological and scientific value, the dung beetles of Southeast Asia are poorly represented in GBIF-mediated data. To increase knowledge about this important insect family, the project team will mobilize georeferenced occurrence records from research papers and collection specimens and generate reference DNA barcode sequences for species. Making this data freely and openly accessible will enable stakeholders in the region to train others to identify the beetles and encourage wider use of dung beetles as bioindicators, both in academic research and through citizen science.
The project began with a team member attending and completing the Data mobilization workshop and course and thereafter, receiving their certification of an advanced badge.
By midterm reporting the project team has met with two of their project collaborators to present more about GBIF and this project, in addition to discussing how their collections could be integrated into this project:
- In November 2021 with Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
- In April 2022 with Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
Two talks to share more about GBIF and this project were also organized with the Tropical Ecology and Entomology Lab and the Forest Ecology Lab at the Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological.
The project has published its first dataset 'Taxonomic checklist of Dung beetles (Coloeptera: Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) in Sabah, Malaysia'. It has also after improved understanding of their data, decided to streamline certain datasets and dataset deliverables, due to most of their data deriving from a similar pool of sources.
Project progress has since the start of the project been communicated through posts on Twitter as well as via the Tropical Ecology and Entomology Lab website and to ensure successful implementation of the project in the remaining project period, a timeline has been outlined of when remaining deliverables will be achieved.