The Origin of the Insect Apocalypse can be found at La Selva

La Selva is a swath of intact Costa Rican jungle protected from development specifically for use by science researchers and educators. Hints of research projects can be seen along the over 30 miles of pathways that weave through the jungle – a tree tagged with orange tape, a 3-square-foot plot of jungle marked off with string.

La Selva is recognized as one of the most productive field stations in the world for tropical research and peer-reviewed publications. It is an incredibly valuable resource for scientists, and while protected, it is not impermeable. La Selva is a peninsula of land surrounded by intense agriculture. On the direct perimeter of the park, there are banana plantations, pineapple and palm crops and other agriculture where unregulated amounts of pesticides are being used. New research is showing that those pesticides are entering the park.

“La Selva is just over 1600 hectares,” biology professor Lee Dyer said. “It’s really just a fragment, but it’s surrounded by agriculture and some of that agriculture has intensified. There are more pineapple plantations, more palm plantations. The banana plantations have moved from being cooperatives to being run by larger companies, so there are a lot more insecticides, nematocides, fungicides and herbicides that are making their way into La Selva. It’s hard to imagine that those changes would not have an impact on the insect populations here.”

“It’s really challenging to advocate for any small organism, something that’s not a polar bear that’s losing its habitat,” Dyer said. “But we owe trillions of dollars a year in ecosystem services – pollination, keeping our crops green, keeping our water clean – to the world of insects. We even have to give them credit for a lot of our arts and culture. The movie ‘Alien’ is basically a movie about a parasitoid.”

Source: Nevada Today, March 19, 2020