CaFoTrop, or Canopée des Forêts Tropicales (Tropical Forest Canopy), organises missions with the Muséum and aims to explore tropical and temperate forests, more specifically the extreme environment of the canopy, a new biodiversity frontier which is difficult to reach.
Twenty-five biodiversity hotspots have been unanimously recognised on land. They are mainly situated in tropical forests. These hotspots are the planet’s most endangered regions, even though their biological diversity and endemism rates are among its highest.
These 25 hotspots have been established based on knowledge about plants and vertebrates. Insects represent over 75% of the animal world (and over 55% of the entire living world) and have not been taken into account. They are little known because their diversity, size and habitats (floor and canopy) make them difficult to collect and study.
The canopy (the uppermost layer of the forest) is considered to be an extreme environment because it is hard to reach. In the wake of the development of Tree climbing, CaFoTrop has developed a gentle, inexpensive access method (Picart et al. 2014) which has made it possible to roam through these extreme environments and study their biological richness, particularly the wide variety of insects.
The study sites
- Australia (extreme south-west of Australia): 2013
- South Africa (Pondoland): 2012
- Chile (Patagonia): 2011
- New Zealand: 2010
- French Guiana (Nouragues Reserve): 2009
- Madagascar (Northern Tsingys): 2007
- Argentina (North Western Yungas): 2007
- Gabon (Ipassa-Mingouli Nature Reserve): 2006
- New Caledonia: 2005
The project’s main objective was to supplement data on insects and extreme environments like the floor and the canopy with respect to the definition of hotspots. Efforts were focussed on highlighting the richness of insects in tropical forests, taking into account the different interconnected segments of the floor, the undergrowth and the canopy.
Today, the aim of the The survivors of Gondwana project is to study the evolution and distribution of insect groups in relation with the fragmentation of Gondwana, this supercontinent which included South America, Africa, Australia, India and Antarctica 150 to 200 million years ago.
The Cafotrop project is an ongoing project, given the scale of the task. The biodiversity studies are therefore limited to a few insect groups and a few sites for the moment. They now include temperate forests.
The main groups selected are:
- flower-visiting dance flies or Empidinae which include over 2,000 species and form a group of Diptera playing a key role in pollinating flowering plants in all temperate regions of the planet
- Carapa which are trees confined to the tropical forests of Africa and America, and can reach up to 30 metres in height
- Springtails, an originally flightless group, cousins of insects, of which fossils have been found dating back 400 million years. Springtails include over 8,000 described species (and probably over 50,000 unknown to science). They are millimetres in size and are mainly found in the ground where they perform a fundamental role in recycling organic matter; however, there are also species specific to the canopy
- dung beetles, represented by around 5,000 species of a remarkable variety of shapes and behaviours
- Tingidae or lace bugs, plant-sucker bugs specific to their host-plants, which are on average 3 - 6 mm long. There are about 2,500 species of these distributed all over the world.
The team is composed of:
- Éric Guilbert, a senior lecturer at the Muséum (Department of Taxonomy and Evolution, UMR 7205), an entomologist specialized in bugs (Heteroptera) and particularly in Tingids, trained in tree-climbing techniques
- Cyrille D’Haese, a research fellow at the CNRS, an entomologist assigned to the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Department of Taxonomy and Evolution, UMR 7205), specialized in soil fauna, particularly Springtails
- Christophe Daugeron, a senior lecturer at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Department of Taxonomy and Evolution, UMR 7205), responsible for the conservation of the Diptera collections. He is a specialist on Empididae Diptera
- Olivier Montreuil, a senior lecturer at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Department of Taxonomy and Evolution, UMR 7205), an entomologist specialized in dung beetles or Scarabaeinae. He is also responsible for the conservation of part of the beetle collections
- Pierre-Michel Forget, a professor at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Department of Ecology and Biodiversity Management, UMR 7179), specialized in seed dispersal by rodents.
- Lionel Picart, an expert in tree-climbing techniques and one of the founders of Accrobranchés, sales and marketing manager at Hévéa-élagage.
and a photographer:
- Philippe Psaïla, a freelance reporter and photographer for over 20 years, who follows all the Muséum-Cafotrop missions.