Insect Conservation


“We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.”  Richard Louv

The diversity of insects in the humid tropics has amazed biologist since the days of Bates, Wallace and other 19th-century explore-naturalists. As can be seen from their diaries and notebooks, contemplation of this abundance was the instrumental in pointing the theory of Natural Selection. Yet, a century and a half later we have only a rough idea of the current dimension of the insect species diversity and even poorer understanding of the processes through which it is generated and maintained. Only a small fraction (certainly less than 20%) of the tropical insects have even been described by the entomologist. This is despite the widespread importance of insects to the diversity and function of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.

Tropical forests are famous for the huge diversity of their wildlife. The majority of animal species are insects, which are generally neglected by conservationists because of the lack of human appreciation of importance, coupled with the general disregard and dislike of insects, this an enormous perception impediment to their conservation. Costa Rica is inhabited by the world's most beautiful insects and their conservation needs to be understood. These iconic species for their beauty could help in their conservation and environmental preservation through eco-tourism appreciation.

Figure 1.  tourist observing the harlequin beetle (Acrocinus longimanus) in Corcovado National Park.

Insects form an important part of the food chain, especially for entomophagous vertebrates such as many mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Insects play an important role in maintaining community structure and composition of the ecosistems; in the case of animals by transmission of diseases, predation and parasitism, and in the case of plants, through phytophagy and by plant propagation through pollination and seed dispersal.

This important biodiversity is being threatened by human due to the loss of habitat, overexploitation, invasive organisms, pollution, and toxification, causing species extinction and loss of populations. Unfortunately, climate change is affecting the integration of the community of tropical rainforest plants and with it, the extinction of some insects that are closely related to the rainforest.