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Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Program Name

Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation


This study compared insect biodiversity among five sites in agricultural landscapes and natural forest in the El Placer community in the valley of the Rio Pastaza in the eastern Andean cloud forest. The area is of vital importance to conservation, as it falls in the ecological corridor between the Sangay and Llanganates national parks. The primary crop produced by the residents of El Placer is naranjilla, and it is cultivated in a variety of manners, mostly with intensive chemical use. The goal of the study was to find out which types of practices were the least harmful to the insect community and allowed for conservation of biodiversity. The sites I studied were a primary forest site in the nearby Candelaria reserve, a secondary forest fragment among the crops, a naranjilla monoculture, and a chemically intense and non-chemically intense polyculture. I used pitfall traps and butterfly traps to catch insects and identified them to morphospecies level. I conducted various biodiversity and ecosystem similarity tests on each site’s insect community. I found that the most biodiverse ecosystems were the primary and secondary forest sites, and that the polycultures hosted significantly more biodiversity than the monoculture. By a measure of ground insects, the non-chemical polyculture showed biodiversity as high as the secondary forest, and by measure of flying insects the chemical polyculture approached the levels of natural forest. Thus, it is concluded that while these different forms of naranjilla cultivation didn’t fully match the biodiversity of the natural forests, the polyculture practices allowed those sites to come close. Further research into different forms of polycultures for naranjilla is encouraged.

Este proyecto comparó la biodiversidad de insectos en cinco sitios en campos de cultivar y bosque natural en la comunidad de El Placer el valle del Río Pastaza en el bosque nublado del este de los Andes. El área es muy importante para la conservación porque es parte de un corredor ecológico entre los parques nacionales Sangay y Llanganates. El cultivo más importante en El Placer es naranjilla, y la cultivan en varias maneras, normalmente con mucha química. La meta del proyecto era buscar maneras de cultivar que conserven la biodiversidad de los insectos. Estudié un sitio de bosque primario en la reserva Candelaria, un de bosque secundario cerca de los cultivos, y tres cultivos de naranjilla: un monocultivo y dos policultivos, un con química y un sin química. Use trampas de vasos y redes para mariposas, y identifique a nivel de morfoespecie. Hice pruebas de biodiversidad y semejanza entre los sitios. Descubrí que los bosques naturales eran los mas biodiversos pero los policultivos tenían más diversidad que el monocultivo y sus niveles eran cerca de los sitios naturales. Aunque los sitios no alcanzan los niveles de biodiversidad del bosque natural, las prácticas de policultivos, especialmente sin química, mejoran mucho la salud de las comunidades de insectos. Por eso es recomendable perseguir la practica de policultivos y estudiar mas como pueden ser exitoso.


Agriculture | Biodiversity | Entomology | Forest Biology | Latin American Studies


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