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Mangroves are an overlooked hotspot of insect diversity despite low plant diversity
Yeo, D.; Srivathsan, A.; Puniamoorthy, J.; Maosheng, F.; Grootaert, P.; Chan, L.; Guénard, B.; Damken, C.; Wahab, R.A.; Yuchen, A.; Meier, R. (2021). Mangroves are an overlooked hotspot of insect diversity despite low plant diversity. BMC Biology 19(1): 202.
In: BMC Biology. BioMed Central: London. e-ISSN 1741-7007, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    Insect biodiversity; Mangroves; NGS barcoding; Species discovery; Beta-diversity; Global insect decline; Southeast Asia

Authors  Top 
  • Yeo, D.
  • Srivathsan, A.
  • Puniamoorthy, J.
  • Maosheng, F.
  • Grootaert, P., more
  • Chan, L.
  • Guénard, B.
  • Damken, C.
  • Wahab, R.A.
  • Yuchen, A.
  • Meier, R.



    The world’s fast disappearing mangrove forests have low plant diversity and are often assumed to also have a species-poor insect fauna. We here compare the tropical arthropod fauna across a freshwater swamp and six different forest types (rain-, swamp, dry-coastal, urban, freshwater swamp, mangroves) based on 140,000 barcoded specimens belonging to ca. 8500 species.


    We find that the globally imperiled habitat “mangroves” is an overlooked hotspot for insect diversity. Our study reveals a species-rich mangrove insect fauna (>3000 species in Singapore alone) that is distinct (>50% of species are mangrove-specific) and has high species turnover across Southeast and East Asia. For most habitats, plant diversity is a good predictor of insect diversity, but mangroves are an exception and compensate for a comparatively low number of phytophagous and fungivorous insect species by supporting an unusually rich community of predators whose larvae feed in the productive mudflats. For the remaining tropical habitats, the insect communities have diversity patterns that are largely congruent across guilds.


    The discovery of such a sizeable and distinct insect fauna in a globally threatened habitat underlines how little is known about global insect biodiversity. We here show how such knowledge gaps can be closed quickly with new cost-effective NGS barcoding techniques.

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