An inventory of flies will help us understand local and global biodiversity, and the vital ecological roles that different species perform.
ZADBI is a 3-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to estimate fly biodiversity within a Costa Rican cloud forest. This effort is based on an international collaboration of fly experts and the Costa Rican Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio). We anticipate the discovery of at least 3,000 species, most of which will be new.
The Diptera, or true flies, include more than 160,000 described species worldwide, far more than the well-known mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians combined. They are just as vulnerable to extinction and habitat loss as these larger animals, however, research on flies is far less advanced because flies are small and very diverse in their habits. Aside from the obvious pests and disease carriers, like house flies and some mosquitoes, most flies are actually beneficial, as decomposers, pollinators, predators, and much more. An estimate of their true species diversity, with many thousands new to science, will allow us to better understand the importance they play in ecosystems, as well as evaluate the impact of habitat change and loss affecting life everywhere. Study at two other mid-elevation sites in Costa Rica will provide comparative information. A comprehensive inventory (list) of flies is a crucial step towards the creation of an effective biodiversity conservation strategy.
- Select a restricted sampling site and use varied collecting methods to catch different types of flies. Our selected site is Zurquí a mid-elevation and habitat-rich cloud forest that offers the most potential for high diversity and number of species new to science. Previous collecting at Zurquí has indeed yielded a high number of previously unknown species.
- Use varied collecting methods to catch different types of flies. The use of varied collecting methods within a restricted area offers the greatest chance of collecting a high level of biodiversity.
- Amass a large team to collect, prepare, and identify flies and ship specimens to over 40 world-wide experts for species-level identification.
- Support student and faculty research. Create opportunities for college and graduate students to participate and contribute to ZADBI.
- Disseminate results through publications, our website, as well as the Encyclopedia of Life.
- Engage schools, other groups, and families in our research. Offer ways for the general public to replicate our project and estimate fly biodiversity at any site.
- Expand fly knowledge and amend common misconceptions by relaying the high biodiversity of flies as a group, including great variation in their appearance and behavior, as well as the critical ecological roles that flies perform.