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Subterranean arthropods of Runaway Creek Nature Reserve, Belize

Authors:

Abstract

For the video summary, please go to https://youtu.be/UwtG9OV7iXo. Two concurrent government projects are rapidly proceeding in central Belize with opposing ramifications. Paving the 37 mile Coastal Road will drastically change land use and accelerate natural resource exploitation, while the Maya Forest Corridor (MFC) aims to protect a vast swath of land providing genetic connectivity for charismatic rainforest animals, such as the jaguar and tapir. Within the MFC, the Runaway Creek Nature Reserve (RCNR) is considered the linchpin for success, yet the reserve also borders the to be paved Coastal Road. We present the results of the first arthropod survey of RCNR caves, and the second multi-cave biological inventory from Belize. During this study, we sampled arthropods in four caves focusing primarily upon cave deep zones. Our goal is to provide the information necessary to manage sensitive cave biological resources, identify new and endemic cave-restricted arthropod species, and provide the foundation for an inventory and monitoring program at RCNR. Although our findings are preliminary, we identified at least 64 morphospecies – including 16 troglobionts (subterranean-adapted organisms), 46 troglophiles (facultative cave-dwellers), two parasites, and two accidentals. Additionally, at least 15 morphospecies are likely new to science. Finally, we will provide recommendations for future research, monitoring, and management of RCNR caves.
Two concurrent government projects are
rapidly proceeding in central Belize. Paving
the 37-mile Coastal Road will drastically
accelerate natural resource exploitation,
while the Maya Forest Corridor (MFC) aims
to conserve a vast swath of land [1]. Within
the MFC, Runaway Creek Nature Reserve
(RCNR) is considered the linchpin for
success [2], yet RCNR also borders the
Coastal Road.Our study aims to provide
the information to help manage sensitive
cave communities, identify new and
endemic cave arthropod species, and
provide the foundation for a cave inventory
and monitoring program.
,
1School of Earth Sciences and Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff (NAU); 2Colorado Plateau Museum of Arthropod Biodiversity, NAU; 3Department of Biological Sciences, NAU;
4Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, Runaway Creek Nature Reserve, Belize; and, 5Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, NAU.
Three researchers sampled four caves from
July 21 to 30,2019.
Terrestrial arthropods were collected
opportunistically along the length of each
cave and via timed direct intuitive searches
within deep zones [3].
At least 64 morphospecies were identified – including
16 troglobionts (subterranean-adapted organisms), 46
troglophiles (facultative cave-dwellers), two parasites,
and two accidentals.
Troglobionts are likely short-range endemic and new
species, and thus may warrant management concern.
Acknowledgements
Fieldwork was supported by the Belize Zoo Neotropical Conservancy, Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center, Cave
Research Foundation, and the National Speleological Society’s Research Grant and International Exploration funds. Reynold Cal and Michael Cal assisted
with fieldwork.Neil Cobb and Paige Chesshire provided access and training in imaging specimens. The Southern Nevada Northern Arizona Louis Stokes
Alliance for Minority Participation program provided research support for the first author.
References
[1] Belize National Government. 2019. Press Release:
Endorsement of Maya Forest Biological Corridor in
Central Belize. Pp. 1. [2] Global Wildlife Conservation.
2019. Government of Belize…Protect Central
America’s Largest, Highly Imperiled Forest. [3]
Wynne, JJ et al.2019.Fifty years of cave arthropod
sampling: techniques and best practices. Int. J.
Speleol.48:3348. [4] Beron,P.2017. Comparative
arachnogeographical analysis between the faunas of
Central America and the Antilleans (Caribbean).
Historia Naturalis Bulgarica 24:3359.
Subterranean Arthropods of Runaway Creek Nature Reserve, Belize
Next Steps
Complete analysis to identify (and formally describe) specimens to
lowest taxonomic level (i.e., genus or species).
Of these, determine which species are endemic and require protection.
Future Research &Outreach
Identify and sample additional caves to better define distributions of
newly described subterranean-adapted, short-range endemic species.
Apply systematic multiple technique sampling frame to more thoroughly
inventory cave arthropod communities [3].
Encourage local organizations (e.g., the Belize Zoo) to heighten public
awareness regarding the sensitivity of cave animals and their habitats.
A female shorttailed whipscorpion (Order
Schizomida). All schizomids are eyeless.
This animal is likely a troglophile.
Introduction Next Steps & Future Research
Methods
Preliminary Findings
Q.J.A. Redmond1,2, Dana Hedman2,3, Stevan Reneau4, Gilroy Welch4, and J. Judson Wynne2,3,5
Four epigean species of
harvestmen (Family Samoidae) are
known from Central America; this is
the first record for Belize [4].
This troglobiont (bristletail; Family Campodeidae)
has cerci (tail characters) 3.5 times its body
length.
Welch searching for arthropods in
flood detritus.
Springtail (Family Entomobryidae) exhibiting
classic troglomorphisms including the absence
of eyes and antenna 1.5 times its body length.
Sixty-four morphospecies identified across 22 coarse taxonomic
groups (i.e., Family level or higher).
Map of study area, Coastal Road,
and Maya Forest Corridor, Belize.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Ever-increasing human pressures on cave biodiversity have amplified the need for systematic, repeatable, and intensive surveys of cave-dwelling arthropods to formulate evidence-based management decisions. We examined 110 papers (from 1967 to 2018) to: (i) understand how cave-dwelling invertebrates have been sampled; (ii) provide a summary of techniques most commonly applied and appropriateness of these techniques, and; (iii) make recommendations for sampling design improvement. Of the studies reviewed, over half (56) were biological inventories, 43 ecologically focused, seven were techniques papers, and four were conservation studies. Nearly one-half (48) of the papers applied systematic techniques. Few papers (24) provided enough information to repeat the study; of these, only 11 studies included cave maps. Most studies (56) used two or more techniques for sampling cave-dwelling invertebrates. Ten studies conducted ≥10 site visits per cave. The use of quantitative techniques was applied in 43 of the studies assessed. More than one-third (42) included some level of discussion on management. Future studies should employ a systematic study design, describe their methods in sufficient detail as to be repeatable, and apply multiple techniques and site visits. This level of effort and detail is required to obtain the most complete inventories, facilitate monitoring of sensitive cave arthropod populations, and make informed decisions regarding the management of cave habitats. We also identified naming inconsistencies of sampling techniques and provide recommendations towards standardization.
Press Release: Endorsement of Maya Forest Biological Corridor in Central Belize. Pp. 1. [2] Global Wildlife Conservation. 2019. Government of Belize…Protect Central America's Largest, Highly Imperiled Forest
  • Belize National Government
Belize National Government. 2019. Press Release: Endorsement of Maya Forest Biological Corridor in Central Belize. Pp. 1. [2] Global Wildlife Conservation. 2019. Government of Belize…Protect Central America's Largest, Highly Imperiled Forest. [3]