From 2005 to 2011, Harvard University collaborated with the National Park Service and others in the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership to conduct an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) at Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Massachusetts. This first phase of the ATBI has focused on the vast diversity of insects and their arthropod relatives that comprise what renowned entomologist and Harvard professor emeritus Dr. E. O. Wilson has affectionately termed the “microwilderness.”
An urban island park may seem like an unlikely place to conduct an ATBI. After all, the 34 islands and peninsulas that make up this park have been heavily influenced by humans over the past few centuries, serving as sites for military forts, farms, schools, hospitals, sewage treatment plants, and, until quite recently, a landfill. This is no hot spot of biodiversity. However, the park’s location in the heart of New England’s most densely populated metropolis couldn’t be better for engaging a large and diverse audience. Like most ATBIs, our inventory has three complementary objectives: (1) to catalog insect biodiversity in the park (fig. 1), (2) to educate and excite the public about local biodiversity, and (3) to use biodiversity data to inform park management.
Biodiversity does exist in an urban park. In our pitfall and malaise traps, bee bowls, nets, beating sheets, and at UV lights, we have collected an impressive array of taxa, including more than 170 species of native bees, 15 species of millipedes, and 52 species of ants (more than twice as many as predicted by Dr. Wilson himself!). In total, more than 65,000 specimens representing approximately 1,800 species populate the ATBI database—and that doesn’t include the vast majority of superabundant and hyperdiverse flies and parasitic wasps still sitting on the shelf (see sidebar). Among the identified species, we have documented many new state and regional records, and even a few new introductions to the United States, including Laemostenus terricola terricola (Herbst), a ground beetle from Europe; Myrmica scabrinodis Nylander, the common elbowed red ant, also from Europe; and Hishimonus sellatus Uhler, a mulberry-feeding leafhopper from Asia.
Rykken, J., and M. Albert. 2012. Boston Harbor Islands All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory: Integrating science, education, and management in an urban island park. Park Science 29(1):26–28.
Available at http://www.nature.nps.gov/ParkScience/archive/PDF/Article_PDFs/ParkScience29(1)SpringSummer2012_26-28_RykkenAlbert_2864.pdf.