Invertebrate Zoology

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Biotic Surveys, Inventory & Monitoring: Caribbean: Hispaniola 

PROJECT: Understanding Vanishing Endemism: Survey of the Invertebrates and Plants of Threatened Montane Habitats in Hispaniola

It began in September 2002 and is a biological survey investigating insects, plants, and other organisms from mountain forests on Hispaniola (Dominican Republic, Haiti), including some of the most threatened natural habitats on earth. A high percentage of animal and plant species is endemic to these habitats, found nowhere else. Destruction of montane habitats is occurring at an alarming rate and many species are threatened with extinction, including many which provide information essential for understanding biological aspects of related species elsewhere in the New World, especially circum-Caribbean regions such as the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Plants of Hispaniola are the least known of any island in the Antilles. An estimated 80% of invertebrate species in mountainous regions is uncollected and unknown to the scientific community.

Project goals are:
1. to further an understanding of biological diversity in threatened Caribbean habitats,
2. to improve infrastructure in Haiti and DR for research on biodiversity,
3. to rapidly provide recommendations for conservation of endangered Hispaniolan habitats, and
4. to foster creative research on diverse and ecologically significant groups of Caribbean animals and plants.
 

The proposal summary for this project provides a more technical perspective.
 

The principal project accomplishment will be a comprehensive, multi-seasonal biotic inventory of great urgency starting Sep 2002, ending Aug 2005. Regions targeted for intensive sampling encompassall six fault-delimited mountain systems in Hispaniola, two in Haiti, four in DR. Sampling emphasizes insects and plants from terrestrial and freshwater systems, especially megadiverse lineages (Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Diptera, angiosperms).

More than 6,720 plants, 219,600 invertebrate specimens, and DNA samples of both will circulate to 170 cooperating specialists worldwide for identification, research, and publication on diverse Caribbean lineages. The project will:
1. collect, prepare, and circulate specimens for research,
2. discover and publish on previously unknown organisms,
3. document spatial and temporal occurrence of species and their associates,
4. communicate biological information over the World Wide Web, and
5. apply survey findings to urgent problems in resource management.

The findings from this project have significance for scientific research, including systematics, evolution, ecology, and conservation. This is a multi-institutional and international effort based at Carnegie Museum of Natural History (Pittsburgh) with collaborating co-PI's from Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University, staff from key institutions in DR and Haiti (Jardín Botánico Nacional, Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, State University of Haiti), government agencies (Dirección General de Vida Silvestre y Biodiversidad (DR), Ministère de L'Environnement (Haiti), and private foundations (Fundación Moscoso Puello).
 

This project will provide the most complete biotic documentation of Hispaniolan habitats available anywhere, will be essential to preservation and management of endangered montane habitats, and will be a model for future multinational, multi-institutional biotic inventories in the Caribbean and beyond.