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Maurice Leponce (2017)

Canopy exploration and paraecologist training in Papua New Guinea

In: 54th Annual Meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), Merida, Mexico, 9-13/7, Merida, Mexico.

Canopy exploration and paraecologist training in Papua New Guinea Leponce, M. (1) (1) Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, ( Background: Papua New Guinea rainforests are among the most biodiverse on Earth. They still cover extensive areas but are being altered at a rapid rate. Their biodiversity is still largely unexplored especially in the treetops, called the canopy. The New Guinea Binatang Research Center, led by Prof. V. Novotny, is seeking for innovative solutions to promote ecological research, capacity building and nature conservation. Methods: For exploring the canopy biodiversity, new tools based on hot air or helium balloons were developed by a French NGO, Opération Canopée. The balloons were used to collect in situ plants and insects, ants in particular. Results: Ants reigned in the canopy. They were sometimes found living inside extraordinary myrmecophytes (Myrmecodia, Hydnophytum) which adapted their structure to accommodate the ants. A few territorial dominant ants such as Oecophylla or Crematogaster excluded each other from tree crowns, forming “ant mosaics”. Discussion/conclusion: For protecting native rainforests an innovative approach, linking biodiversity research and capacity building, was implemented. Gifted naturalists, called parataxonomists and paraecologists, were recruited in villages and trained by internationally-renowned scientists. Research stations created local employment. This source of income added to money from sponsors allowed local communities to obtain access to a higher level of education and health care without having to give in to the pressure related to deforestation. Video HD 16:9, French, English subtitles, 12min. Full version “In the treetops of Papua New Guinea” available at

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