Promoting biodiversity
   

Representation of some taxonomic work groups.

INBio works to promote a greater awareness of the value of biodiversity as a means to achieve its conservation and improve the quality of life of human beings.

Fulfilling this mission implies generating and collecting information on biodiversity for the purpose of knowing and protecting it. This is the first link in INBio’s essential process, which serves to create a close connection between biodiversity and all the people who participate in this process in different ways.

 
Natural Inventory
 

Costa Rica’s biodiversity contains an enormous wealth of information, which is meticulously collected and recorded by the National Biodiversity Inventory.

This effort is reflected in the work undertaken by the eight Taxonomic Work Teams (TWT) currently in operation: 68,180 new specimens added to the reference collections, with their respective bar codes and geographic location by coordinates; a general collection of 2,693,032 specimens; 4,023 photographs; 41 publications (including 569 species, 88 of them new to science and 74 endemic species), one corresponding to a new genus and 233 new entries for the country; four field guides and 717 Basic Information Units (UBIs) published.

Another important example of INBio’s effort to gather information on biodiversity is the field work carried out by the parataxonomists who form part of the Research Programs in the Conservation Areas and of INBio’s TWTs. Part of this process involves providing work materials and equipment, such as different types of traps, pins, pincers, stereoscopes, computers, photographic cameras, motorcycles and diving equipment, in order to initiate the process of generating information, which then flows back to INBio headquarters.

In 2001, a total of 68,180 specimens were added to the Institute’s biological collections, and to the Atta information system (Table 1). In addition to the details of the collection itself, there is an additional process to compile information on the biology and natural history of the different organisms.

During this period, the Coleoptera and Hymenoptera teams generated information on 1,647 specimens. In the case of Hymenoptera, emphasis was placed on gall wasps and bees.

Meanwhile, the Diptera team conducted studies to determine the reactions of certain groups of insects to light and to carbon dioxide, as well as their daytime or nocturnal behavior. Emphasis was also placed on ex situ breeding of individuals from families such as Psychodidae, Dixidae, Corethrellidae, Chaoboridae and Ceratopogonidae from larval forms, enabling us to increase the number of new species described. For similar reasons, INBio also continued to breed Syrphidae and Tephritidae.

The Fungi work team continued with its task of collecting specimens from plots and from previously marked tree trunks.

Documentation with images, information on habits, habitat and other features of the specimens is an essential part of generating information. Thus, the information generated this year was complemented with 4,023 new photographs, taken both with traditional slide equipment and modern digital cameras.

   
  In the laboratory
 

Process to separate species collected in traps that use alcohol.

Part of the material collected in the field is processed on site, while another part is processed in the laboratory, particularly the material collected from traps that use alcohol, such as malaise traps, yellow traps and interception traps.

In the case of the Nematodes work team, 3,000 permanent specimen samples were processed.

This year data on more than 1,900 Hymenoptera and Diptera samples in alcohol was reorganized and entered into the database. Preparing this material requires special techniques, particularly when the specimens are soft and very small, measuring 5 mm or less. The Diptera work team processed 209 samples in a critical point dryer and 813 in ethyl acetate.

Once the information on the material has been introduced into the database and the specimens have been mounted and labeled, a process begins to study the morphological characteristics, their classification into morphospecies and finally, the identification or description of species.

   
  Identification
   

Registering species in the information system, using system of bar-code labels.

 

Press on the table to see it in detail

 

Press on the table to see it in detail

The Lepidoptera work team separated 95% of the collection by superfamily and family; in some cases complete families were identified by species, such as Sphingidae, Saturniidae, Limacodidae and Megalopigidae. In other groups, such as Artiidae and Pyraloidea, between 85% and 95% of species were identified. In the case of the Tortricidae family, 95% was identified by species or morphospecies.

Collections such as Coleoptera, Diptera and Hymenoptera are identified by family.

The work team in charge of terrestrial and marine Mollusks managed to identify, label and enter data on 21,961 specimens in the Atta information system.

The Hymenoptera work team prepared information for the database on 77,359 specimens identified by species (47,245 Hymenoptera, 14.243 Homoptera and 15.871 Hemiptera).

The Fungi work team needs to enter the description of the newly collected specimens into the database before they lose some of their morphological characteristics. This year 3,964 macroscopic descriptions –1,923 macrofungi and 2,041 microfungi– were added to the inventory. In addition, 4,787 specimens were curated and preserved –2,667 specimens of macrofungi, 2,073 of microfungi and 47 of lichens–. To accomplish this task, the parataxonomists were provided with portable computers and a module of the Atta information system, which greatly facilitates field work.

For its part, the Plants work team curated 8,294 specimens. This process included preparation, drying, identification, data input, labeling and storage.

Table 2 shows the accumulated figures corresponding to the specimens collected and identified up to December 31 of 2001; Table 3 shows their distribution according to taxonomic hierarchy.

As an element to measure the quality of the collections, the health indexes or profiles of the collections of Coleoptera, Orthoptera and Arachnids were updated, and are available at the following electronic address: http://darnis.inbio.ac.cr/Perfiles Coleoptera/default.html

In the case of Diptera, the work team completed the information gathering phase for these collections, while the database for Hymenoptera, Homoptera and Hemiptera was prepared.

In addition to the researchers at INBio, many scientific collaborators around the world work with our specimens on a daily basis, working to discover and make known the biodiversity of Costa Rica. During the year 2001, some 207 national and foreign taxonomists collaborated and supported the different processes of the National Biodiversity Inventory.

The Nematodes Inventory received the visit of a taxonomist and an ecologist, while the marine and terrestrial Mollusks Inventory received visits from seven specialists and loaned material to six collaborators abroad for their respective studies. The Lepidoptera Inventory also provided support to various foreign taxonomists and sent material to four more researchers outside the country.

The Hymenoptera, Homoptera and Hemiptera Inventory received 11 experts from Panama, Colombia and the United States.

In the course of the year, INBio made 59 loans of material to experts conducting taxonomic studies outside Costa Rica.

   
  Ecological Studies
   

Results of ecological studies.

INBio contracted external consultants and financed six ecological studies to generate information in order to facilitate decision-making in the area of species management in four of the country’s Conservation Areas:

• Evaluation and management of resources of the Gandoca-Manzanillo lagoon, in the Amistad-Caribe Conservation Area (ACLA-C).

• Restoration of wetlands: management of flood forests, palm forests and cativa tree forests in the Limoncito wetland, Limon province (ACLA-C).

• Integrated conservation and pest management in butterfly farms in the Arenal-Tilaran Conservation Area (ACA-T).

• Clinical evaluation of a population of howler monkeys in Cahuita National Park (ACLA-C).

• Brief ecological evaluation of the Hojancha-Nandayure biological corridor, in the Tempisque Conservation Area (ACT).

• Impact of forestry on the reproduction, regeneration and abundance of the tree species Caryocar costaricense, Peltogyne purpurea and Ceiba pentandra in the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve (ACOSA).

 

Biodiversity prospecting

   

Investigación en bioprospección /Research on bio-prospecting

2001 was a year of important progress in INBio’s different spheres of action. Good examples of this are the advances achieved in the area of bioprospecting, including:

• Obtaining new extracts from plant and fungi samples.

• Isolation of compounds showing biological activity against human diseases.

• Validation of chemical extraction protocols and standardization of plant extracts based on chemical markers.

• Development of new in vitro protocols for wild plant species• Diversification of biological activity tests to identify organisms or active compounds that inhibit disease.

• Expansion of the micro-organisms collection.

These activities were backed up with specific contracts with industrial firms and academic institutions, including the renewal of the agreement with the Diversa biotechnology firm to search for enzymes with industrial applications; and the Chagas II project, launched in collaboration with the EARTH University.

The Chagas II project will enable INBio to introduce innovations in fields in which the Institute had not previously undertaken systematic work, such as assessing extracts of Fungi ferments and plant cell cultures for their activity in inhibiting the enzyme Trypanoth-ione reductase. Through our work with EARTH University. we hope to develop protocols and acquire experience in this and other fields of biotechnology that are of great current and future importance.

In the context of the IDB/INBio project, 2001 also marked the start of a strategic alliance between the Bio-prospecting Program and various national companies. INBio hopes that the fruits of this collaboration and its specific plans will translate into a greater development of the private sector and of its work force, with the incorporation of biodiversity products into the national and international markets.

In its search for new alliances with industry and academia, INBio participated in important international fairs, such as BIO 2001 and BioMarket. In addition, links were established with Biotrade and the National Biotechnology Center of Spain. We hope that new initiatives in bioprospecting will emerge from these contacts.

   
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