Threatened Neotropical seasonally dry tropical forest: Evidence of biodiversity loss in sap-sucking herbivores over 75 years

J. A. Pinedo-Escatel, G. Moya-Raygoza, C. H. Dietrich, J. N. Zahniser, L. Portillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tropical forests cover 7% of the earth's surface and hold 50% of known terrestrial arthropod species. Alarming insect declines resulting from human activities have recently been documented in temperate and tropical ecosystems worldwide, but reliable data from tropical forests remain sparse. The sap-sucking tribe Athysanini is one herbivore group sensitive to anthropogenic perturbation and the largest within the diverse insect family Cicadellidae distributed in America's tropical forests. To measure the possible effects of deforestation and related activities on leafhopper biodiversity, a survey of 143 historic collecting localities was conducted to determine whether species documented in the Mexican dry tropical forests during the 1920s to 1940s were still present. Biostatistical diversity analysis was performed to compare historical to recent data on species occurrences. A data matrix of 577 geographical records was analysed. In total, 374 Athysanini data records were included representing 115 species of 41 genera. Historically, species richness and diversity were higher than found in the recent survey, despite greater collecting effort in the latter. A strong trend in species decline was observed (-53%) over 75 years in this endangered seasonally dry ecosystem. Species completeness was dissimilar between historic and present data. Endemic taxa were significantly less important and represented in the 1920s-1940s species records. All localities surveyed in the dry tropical forest are disturbed and reduced by modern anthropogenic processes. Mexico harbours highly endemic leafhopper taxa with a large proportion of these inhabiting the dry forest. These findings provide important data for conservation decision making and modelling of distribution patterns of this threatened seasonally dry tropical ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number201370
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 10 2021


  • Athysanini
  • distribution
  • dry forest
  • endemism
  • historical data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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