Arthropods as bioindicators of ecological stability
Remote archipelagos enclose high endemism levels and a significant portion of terrestrial biodiversity. The archipelago of the Azores, located over 615 km across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge support an abundant flora, with mixed and pristine forests covering many islands’ hillsides. Azores is recognized worldwide as an important conservation hotspot (by UNESCO, Biosphere and Natura networks, National Geographic Society).
The increase of fragmented monocultural landscapes, as a result of growing domestic demand for arable crop land, has drastically altered the richness and abundance of flora and fauna in many islands. The loss of biodiversity is a problematic economical and biological phenomenon associated with reduction of the resilience capabilities of ecosystems. Negative impacts such as modifications of biotic food webs occur.
Nature has been financing economic prosperity and its contribution must be taken into consideration in economical and conservative estimates. Profits from ecosystems services, solely, have been estimated in ca. 19 Trillion € (Constanza 1997, 2007) whilst costs from biodiversity losses are ca. 1.35 to 3.1 Trillion € (Sukhdev 2008). These are not marginal values. The critical importance of preserving biodiversity is widely recognized by groups within the Convention for the Biological Diversity, the G8 and the European Environmental Agency. These groups are actively stimulating and politically committed to protect biodiversity.
The project E.D.E.N. [PRO-BIO], follows the premises herein, through the use of invertebrate bioindicators, as a biological tool, for analysis of biodiversity and ecosystem stability. Invertebrate bioindicators are unique due to their high sensitivity and rapid response to changes in their habitat, accurately detecting cryptic changes in ecosystems’ dynamics.
Representative habitat types depicting an increasing level of anthropogenic disturbance were monitored in five islands of the archipelago in order to profile, genetically and biologically, arthropod species with high resolution power detecting ecological changes for a given habitat type. Eighty sampling habitats were monitores, and a total of circa 5000 samples were obtained for a total of 166,000 specimens comprising 1273 species, which are now the core of the Arthropotheca of the Univ. og the Azores, São Miguel branch. An ongoing gallery stock of all species found during the surveys can be seen at www.eden-azores.webs.com.