Integration of existing knowledge is critical to better understand and manage our planet’s biological resources. Research networks that integrate, synthesize and embed scientific knowledge into decision-making and policy are vital to tackle the current biodiversity crisis. Insects are the major stockholders of global biodiversity and key contributors to ecosystem functioning and human wellbeing. However, the data available on this important group is spatially limited and largely lacking for the tropics. This is particularly important for Amazonian forests and freshwater ecosystems, which house an extremely diverse, but mostly unknown, entomofauna.
Here, we aim to [a] introduce the Synergize project – a new collaborative network for Amazonian biodiversity; [b] demonstrate the spatio-temporal distribution of ecological knowledge on terrestrial and freshwater insects; and [c] identify the magnitude of the taxonomic shortfall within published and unpublished community data for ants, dung beetles, and freshwater caddisflies, damselflies, dragonflies, and stoneflies surveyed across the Brazilian Amazon.
We included datasets that meet four criteria: (1) provide multi-species abundances/frequencies within a single or multiple land-uses; (2) supply geographical coordinates and have standardised sampling methods for each site and/or temporal survey; (3) have taxa identity resolved to at least genus level; and (4) sites surveyed within the Brazilian Amazon. To standardise species nomenclature across multiple datasets, we worked with expert taxonomists to validate IDs and build up-to-date lists of species for the Brazilian Amazon.
Thanks to the generosity of >90 scientists that work or have worked in the Amazon, we collated 91 insect community datasets surveyed within c. 4,900 forest and freshwater sites. In summary, the Synergize network includes data on over 432k dung beetles, 168k ant records and 58k freshwater insects from 1296, 4118 and 717 (morpho)species, respectively. When assessing the differences between the fully described and unknown species, we found that 48%, 55% and 59% of our individuals/records were associated with known species of dung beetles (n = 216), freshwater insects (n = 402) and ants (n =625), respectively. Our collaborative research network addresses three shortfalls in the ecological knowledge of Amazonian insects: lack of taxonomic information (Linnean), data scarcity on species distribution (Wallacean), and data absence on species abundances across space and time (Prestonian). To our knowledge, this is the most comprehensive ecological database collated to date in the Amazon; which will be useful to researchers and decision-makers aiming to understand the status of biodiversity in tropical forests and freshwaters.
Tropical insects; Amazonia; Forest; Freshwater; Entomofauna; Research Synthesis.