Plant diversity accurately predicts insect diversity in two tropical landscapes

Kai Zhang, Siliang Lin, Yinqiu Ji, Chenxue Yang, Xiaoyang Wang, Chunyan Yang, Hesheng Wang, Haisheng Jiang, Rhett D. Harrison, Douglas W. Yu

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Plant diversity surely determines arthropod diversity, but only moderate correlations between arthropod and plant species richness had been observed until Basset et al. (Science, 338, 2012 and 1481) finally undertook an unprecedentedly comprehensive sampling of a tropical forest and demonstrated that plant species richness could indeed accurately predict arthropod species richness. We now require a high-through- put pipeline to operationalize this result so that we can (i) test competing explanations for tropical arthropod megadiversity, (ii) improve estimates of global eukaryotic spe- cies diversity, and (iii) use plant and arthropod communities as efficient proxies for each other, thus improving the efficiency of conservation planning and of detecting forest degradation and recovery. We therefore applied metabarcoding to Malaise-trap samples across two tropical landscapes in China. We demonstrate that plant species richness can accurately predict arthropod (mostly insect) species richness and that plant and insect community compositions are highly correlated, even in landscapes that are large, heterogeneous and anthropogenically modified. Finally, we review how metabarcoding makes feasible highly replicated tests of the major competing explana- tions for tropical megadiversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4407–4419
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number17
Early online date26 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016


  • Arthropoda
  • biodiversity
  • biomonitoring
  • host specificity
  • insect–plant interactions
  • surrogate species

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