Enbi WP13 projects

True Fruit Flies of the Afrotropical Region

Fruit flies (Diptera, Tephritidae) are one of the most economically important groups of insects in the Afrotropical Region. They cause millions of Euros of damage to fruits and vegetables, and are a major constraint to commercial and subsistence farming in the region. The family Tephritidae includes more than 5000 species worldwide, approximately 1400 species of which develop in fleshy fruits (Norrbom et al 1999). Nearly 250 of these species are capable of achieving pest status by feeding on plants of economic importance (White and Elson-Harris 1992). The Mediterranean fruit fly, or Medfly, Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann), is currently the most important of these pests from an invasive species perspective. Of African origin, it has spread to several other continents where it causes millions of Euros in damage. It also threatens other horticultural areas (such as California and Florida in the USA and regions in eastern Australia) resulting in very expensive detecting and monitoring programmes in these regions.

The destructive association of several species with commercially grown fruit and vegetable crops makes them the subject of intensive agricultural research. But fruit flies are also biologically diverse and form a significant part of the biota of any region. Besides the several pest species, the large majority of the true fruit flies are limited to a small number of indigenous host fruits, mainly from trees and shrubs. Most of them are associated with forested areas, and can be used as indicator species for the biodiversity of a given area. In addition, several fruit fly larvae develop in other parts of host plants such as the stems or flowerheads.

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Martius' Flora Brasiliensis

Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794-1868) was one of the most famous naturalists of the nineteenth century. From 1817 to 1821 he explored Brazil, with the zoologist Spix. During that period he collected more than 10,000 herbarium specimens that are now housed in the Botanische Staatssammlung, Muenchen, Germany. Importantly, von Martius' trip was the first to inspire academic interest in Brazil's rich flora.

Martius quickly became an expert on palms and published three volumes of the Historia Naturalis Palmarum between 1823 and 1850. Additionally, he co-founded, with Endlicher, the magnificent Flora Brasiliensis, a monographical flora series. During his life time 46 fascicles were published, the remaining were completed later by Eichler and Urban in 1906 making a total of 130 volumes.

Von Martius' private botanical collection grew, by purchase and exchange, to become one of the most important private herbaria of the nineteenth century. When he died, it contained ca. 300,000 specimens representing 65,000 species from all over the world. Approximately half of them came from the Amazon Basin. The Herbarium Martii was acquired by the Belgian government in 1870 and formed the beginning of a world collection for the then newly established Jardin botanique de l'Etat. The entire archive, with detailed lists for many of von Martius' acquisitions, is now conserved in the National Botanic Garden of Belgium.

In this age of advancing technology it is possible to make species information and herbarium material more available to the academic community by placing it on the Internet. The project 'Prototype Image Server to Integrate the Martius' Herbarium and the Digital Flora Brasiliensis' aims to do just this. It represents an inter-institutional feasibility study within Work Package 13 of the European Network for Biodiversity Information. Initially this project focuses on eight pilot groups. From these groups, all historical type specimens of Brazilian taxa have been imaged and databased along with the texts and plates of the Flora Brasiliensis. Specimens, images, plates and texts are cross-linked and currently accessible on the Internet.

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The Albertine Rift Database

The Albertine rift, a mountainous region situated in the middle of the African continent is a biodiversity hotspot. It includes the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and the western part of Uganda and of Tanzania.

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This project is composed of the following projects :

Albertine Rift Bird

Birds of the Albertine Rift.

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Albertine Rift Butterfly

Funds were allotted by Belspo to make a database of part of the butterfly collection of this region: the family Papilionidae (swallowtails) and the subfamily Charaxinae (Nymphalidae). All label data of the specimens of the above mentioned countries have been input, and also those of Kenya.

The more, "The National Museums of Kenya" provided us with an Excel file of their Papilionidae and these have also been input. In that way distributional information is available of the species of the covered families in Central Africa between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

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Albertine Rift Fish

Cichlids are extraordinary fishes. Based on current estimates (Snoeks, 2000; 2001), the total species number within this family might well be around 2,400 species, which would make it the largest family of fishes, and maybe even of vertebrates. Although cichlids do occur in other tropical areas, and even in large numbers in the river systems of South and Central America, it is in the East African Lakes that cichlids have speciated in greatest profusion. In fact, the cichlids of these lakes constitute more than 10 % of the extant freshwater fishes of the world and each of the three larger lakes (Victoria, Tanganyika, Malawi) harbours more fish species than any other lake in the world. Species numbers for these lakes are estimated at 300 for Lake Tanganyika, 600 for Lake Victoria and 800 for Lake Malawi (Snoeks, 2001). Also the smaller lakes in the area, such as lakes Edward-George, Kivu, Kioga and others, hold relatively large numbers of cichlid fishes (lakes Albert and Turkana being an exception).

Next to their speciose nature, another important feature of the East-Africa cichlids is their exceptional high degree of endemism. In each of the lakes, over 90 % of the cichlid species occurring, can only be found in one lake system and nowhere else. In addition, many taxa exhibit a substantial degree of intra-lacustrine endemism, their distribution being limited to parts of a lake only. These features alone make the Great African Lakes the largest centres of biodiversity in the vertebrate world.

These cichlid faunas provide many fascinating research topics. This has to do with their explosive speciation and adaptive radiation, making them prime subjects for systematic and evolutionary research. Equally fascinating are their fascinating behaviour, especially while reproducing and their morphological and ecological specialisations.

The main value of the cichlids of the Great African Lakes, however, is their economic importance as a readily accessible source of protein for the riparian people. In addition, these fishes are important to the specialised aquarium trade as one of the more exciting fish groups to be kept and bred by many hobbyists all over the world. The Albertine rift, a mountainous region situated in the middle of the African continent is a biodiversity hotspot. It includes the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and the western part of Uganda and of Tanzania.

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Albertine Rift Rubiaceae

With ca. 650 genera and 13,000 species the Gardenia and coffee family (Rubiaceae) is the fourth largest of the angiosperms (Robbrecht, 1988). Rubiaceae are essentially tropical and woody, but one fourth of the representatives are herbaceous and some of these occur in temperate regions. It is a well-defined group, with only a few minor delimitation problems. They are easily recognized at family level by decussate, entire leaves, presence of stipules, actinomorphic sympetalous flowers and an inferior ovary. The Rubiaceae are demonstrated to contain many species useful as indicators of glaciation rain forest refugia (Robbrecht 1996).

Several economically important species occur within this family with a wide range of uses: beverage [Coffea arabica, C. canephora and C. liberica (coffee)], drug [Cinchona (quinine, malaria therapy), Pausinystalia yohimbe (yohimbine, aphrodisiac), Carapichea ipecacuanha (ipecacuanha, vomitive) etc.], paint [Uncaria ('cats claw', paint), Rubia tinctoria (paint) etc.] or ornamental [Ixora sp., Gardenia sp., Mussaenda sp., Pentas sp., Bouvardia sp., Serissa sp., Nertera sp., etc.]. More species have a potential to be used for medicine, because many secondary metabolites occur within their tissues. It is evident that many species are used for different purposes by local people .

The National Botanic Garden of Belgium (NBGB) has a longstanding tradition of Rubiaceae research (Robbrecht 1993). Well-known Belgian botanists such as Camille Vermoesen, Emile De Wildeman, Jean Lebrun, Walter Robyns and Ernest Petit studied the family. All these botanists worked at or in collaboration with the NBGB. At present, morphological, systematic and taxonomic research on the Rubiaceae is continued by four staff members, with a focus on the African continent and Madagascar; several projects are carried out in collaboration with the Laboratory of Plant Systematics (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium).

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Macaranga and Mallotus of Borneo
ecological indicators of disturbance

This project has been developed by the Nationaal Herbarium Nederland and does not form part of the Bebif ENBI WP13 projects

Species in the sister genera Macaranga and Mallotus (spurge family, Euphorbiaceae) have a similar habit when growing under similar ecological conditions. Many species are typical for a certain environment: undisturbed primary tropical rain forest, once burnt forest, selectively logged forest, repeatedly burned, etc. In these environments, especially in the disturbed ones, the species are very common. This makes the species in these two genera ideal as indicator species for the type of disturbance and gives ecologists a means to estimate the regeneration potential of a forest as burned forest regenerates far less well than selectively logged forest (these forests look similar after a few years, but the species composition is very different).

The website provides descriptions and photos of all Bornean species of Macaranga and Mallotus, a user-friendly identification key is present, and the ecological indicator method can be used to estimate the type and time of disturbance of the forest. This (plot) method is briefly explained. Results of the plot inventories (numbers of individuals per species) can be entered in a form after which the computer shows the probably type of disturbance, a description of the habitat, the regeneration potential, etc. A coloured thermometer also provides a visial result, green for undisturbed changing via orange to red for very disturbed with a low regeneration potential.

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