The distribution of organisms in a tropical forest is highly heterogeneous in time and space. The response to a given ecological factor (e.g. humidity, temperature) depends of the organism considered.

Therefore the IBISCA-approach is:


We concentrate our efforts on a selection of taxa covering a wide spectrum of ecological functions (e.g. predation, decomposition, pollination).

Fig.1. Insects representatives of various orders and feeding guilds. (1) Arachnoscelis sp. [Orthoptera Tettigoniidae, predator]; (2) Biolleyana costalis (Fowler) [Hemiptera Nogodinidae, sap-sucker]; (3) Ptilotopus zonata (Mocsáry) [Hymenoptera Apidae, pollinator], buzz-pollinating flowers of the canopy tree Apeiba membranacea; (4) Cylindrotermes macrognathus Snyder [Isoptera Termitidae, scavenger]; (5) Eciton burchelli Westwood [Hymenoptera Formicidae, predator]; (6) Gibbifer impressopunctata (Crotch) [Coleoptera Erotylidae, fungal-feeder].


A wide spectrum of habitats and micro-habitats are considered during our sampling programmes. A particular attention is given to the forest canopy despite its difficulty of access. In some projects samplings are conducted along altitudinal gradients.

Fig.2. Micro-habitats, from the ground floor to the canopy top, explored during IBISCA-Panama. Corresponding sampling methods are presented on Fig.3.


We rely on various protocols because each collection method only capture a fraction of the species present in the habitat.

Fig.3. Sampling protocols used during IBISCA-Panama: (1) collection of the leaf-litter fauna and extraction with a mini-Winkler apparatus; (2) collection of ground and suspended soils, extraction with Berlese-Tullgren funnels; (3) hand collecting for ants and termites; (4) pitfall traps; (5) canopy fogging; (6) beating of vegetation and dead branches; (7) baits and netting; (8) gall sampling within the volumetric space of a vertical cylinder; (9) wood rearing; (10) light traps; (11) aerial composite flight-interception traps; (12) ground flight-interception traps; (13) sticky traps; (14) ground Malaise traps; (15) aerial view of San Lorenzo forest.


To maximize the information obtained, all collections by the different methods are made at the time and site, and replicated in time and space. At the end all the results are gathered in a common database.

The IBISCA approach aims to motivate scientists to work on integrative projects, and is less an inventory per se. IBISCA has set a new ‘industry standard’ involving team work (taxonomists, ecologists, students, parataxonomists), international collaboration and complimentary skills, both in the field and laboratory.

Our strategy aims at:

  • Get baseline data on particular key topics such as the spatio-temporal distribution of arthropods and vascular plants (e.g. IBISCA-Panama 2003-2004); food web structure ; assessing the relationships between biodiversity and forest process; etc.
  • Collaborating with existing or future inventory programmes of large scope.
  • Developing tools and protocols to efficiently study habitats where most of undescribed biodiversity resides, the upper canopy of tropical rainforests. These habitats are also the most difficult to access within tropical forests.
  • Refining inventory methods and protocols to efficiently survey biodiversity, coupled with the use of new molecular techniques such as DNA barcoding.
  • Improving our ability to quickly and efficiently process biodiversity samples (e.g. work with parataxonomists, skilled naturalist, supervised students)
  • Developing efficient protocols for a vast array of diverse tropical habitats.
  • Establishing cost-effective tools and protocols to monitor the response of biodiversity to forest disturbance and climate change.

We prepare for the near future various pilot-studies covering these different aspects.