If you are interested in biodiversity, and I bet you are, then this is the blog post for you. I mean seriously, if you are reading the OTS student blog, then you must know that Costa Rica is smack dab in the middle of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot. Fun fact: CR represents just 0.03% of the world’s land area but contains 5% of known species. For those of you out of the loop, biodiversity is simply a measure of the degree of variation of life in any given focal area, be that a tree, cornfield, country, continent, or even the whole world. Of the many student-led independent projects conducted at the Las Cruces Biological Station, only the one conducted by yours truly investigated the diversity of arthropods that live in the Wilson Botanical Gardens. Specifically, we measured arthropod species variation between monocultures in gardens grouped by plant family.
Human beings are prone to grouping like with like in our gardens or fields; think driving through the endless tracts of corn in Nebraska or how your grandma arranges tomatoes in the backyard. The Wilson Botanical Garden is no different, and is the perfect site to study variation in arthropod species composition because the plants are divided into gardens based on taxonomic family. Each species in a specific garden is further segregated by planting monocultures. As we strolled through these gardens, questions rose in our minds: 1. Are there similar species of arthropods between different monocultures within a garden. 2. Does the size of a monoculture have any relationship with the species richness of a monoculture? 3. Which garden experiences the most variation in species composition between monoculture plots?
Over the course of 3 days, we divided each garden into 6 plant species specific monoculture plots. Then for 10 minutes, we looked for all the arthropods we could find in a plot and identified them to morphospecies while simultaneously taking abundance data. This process was repeated across all 6 plots in the garden, then across 6 gardens delineated by plant taxonomic family. We also set out 2 pitfall traps per garden and then checked them 12 hours later to see what morphospecies’ we caught with a different sampling method.
To see some of our interesting results, and some more beautiful pictures of the plants and arthropods of the Wilson Botanical Gardens, please watch our slideshow below. The narrator may not be David Attenborough, but he will take you on a tranquil biodiversity journey with the smooth and dulcet tones of his southern drawl.