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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: The importance of rare species in tropical forests

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The project aim is to quantify the role of rare species in community structure and functioning, by investigating the species richness, host specificity and community structure of insects on rare tropical forest plants.

Collecting insects feeding on plants
Collecting insects feeding on plants © Tim Cockerill

An exceptionally large number of tropical species are rare, with low abundances and/or restricted distributions. It is not known whether rare species have a different ecology to common species, nor whether such differences affect the assemblages of associated species at higher trophic levels. Consequently, we are unable to quantify the role of rare species in community structure and functioning. Whilst theory emphasises the potential importance of rare species and weak interactions in communities, empirical investigations have been strongly biased towards abundant and widespread species.

The project focuses on rare plant species and their associated insect herbivore and parasitoid assemblages. A combination of large scale surveys and non-destructive manipulative experiments will be used to address hypotheses about species richness, host specificity and community structure. The field work will take place in the Madang province in Papua New Guinea, where collaborator Vojtech Novotny is the director of the New Guinea Bintang Research Center.

Funding: The Royal Society
Funding Duration: October 2007-October 2017

Related research groups

Environmental Biosciences
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