Rensselaer biologist Brad Lister and his research collaborator Andres Garcia have been awarded the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation 2019 Biodiversity Award for a “remarkable study” describing the alarming decline of insect populations, which was published in October 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

The paper showed that, while temperatures in the tropical forests of northeastern Puerto Rico have climbed two degrees Celsius since the mid-1970s, the biomass of arthropods – invertebrate animals such as insects, millipedes, and sowbugs – has declined by as much as 60-fold. By documenting simultaneous declines in forest insectivores, species that eat insects and other invertebrates., Lister and Garcia showed that the forest’s food web was being disrupted.  Overall, their study highlighted an under-appreciated threat to the functioning and biodiversity of tropical forests.

The finding supported a 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warnings of severe environmental threats given a 2.0 degree Celsius elevation in global temperature. Like some other tropical locations, the study area in the Luquillo rainforest has already reached or exceeded a 2.0 degree Celsius rise in average temperature.

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programmes, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.

SOURCE: Rensselaer PHOTO: Brad Lister