The China Water Beetle Survey (CWBS) – a biodiversity project of the superlative celebrates its 10th anniversary
Manfred A. Jäch
|Fig. 1. Map of China showing locations of CWBS sampling stations (1992 – 2001).|
The water beetle fauna of China was found to be unexpectedly diverse. Several hundred of the species collected during the CWBS turned out to be new to science! In certain provinces, 100% (!) of the representatives of Elmidae and/or Hydraenidae collected are new. The taxonomic/faunistic results of the China Water Beetle Survey are largely presented in a hardcover trilogy (Fig. 2):
|Fig. 2. The taxonomic/faunistic results of the CWBS are presented in three comprehensive hardcover volumes.|
Jäch, M.A. & Ji, L. (eds.): Water Beetles of China. - Wien: Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft in Österreich and Wiener Coleopterologenverein. Vol. I (1995), 410 pp.; Vol. II (1998), 371 pp.; Vol. III (2003), VI+572 pp.
These three volumes include more than 1,300 pages with contributions by 50 (!) authors from 18 countries. There are many colour plates showing more than 80 top quality habitus paintings (mostly by the famous artist W. Zelenka), more than 80 habitat photographs, and lots of distribution maps. The three volumes include precise descriptions of the sampling stations, an annotated checklist of the water beetle families of the world, a key to the families of water beetles occurring in China, and numerous taxonomic revisions and descriptions of almost 200 new species (and subspecies) and nine new genera (and subgenera) of aquatic and riparian Coleoptera from China and neighbouring countries. About 200 additional Chinese species (mostly Hydraenidae, Hydrophilidae, and Elmidae) are still awaiting description by specialists. Several rare species, e.g. Colymbetes minimus (originally collected by Sven Hedin in 1901), Mataeopsephus nitidipennis (not collected since 1849!), or Metagyrinus sinensis, have been rediscovered. A photograph of father David's most spectacular water beetle discovery, Hygrobia davidi, is provided. Today, Hygrobia davidi is regarded as extinct globally for it has not been collected for more than 120 years. Several contributions are dedicated to larval morphology. For the first time, the habitus of a hydraenid larva (i.e. Ochthebius gonggashanensis) is depicted in colour. Also a first two families, Epimetopidae and Torridincolidae, are recorded from China. The discovery of an entirely new beetle family, Aspidytidae, detected in central China in 1995, is reported; Aspidytes wrasei is described and despite the lack of fossil evidence, we may assume that this species is something of a living fossil - a coleopterous Giant Panda.
About 70 species of water beetle occur in Hong Kong. Three genera (Cuspidevia, Eonychius, Sinonychus) and seven species (Ceradryops matei, Cuspidevia velaris, Eonychius dudgeoni, Eulichas dudgeoni, Hydrocyphon dudgeoni, Pelthydrus dudgeoni, Sinonychus lantau) were newly described in the course of the CWBS (Jäch 1995, Jäch & Boukal 1995, Jäch & Ji 1995, Kodada & Boukal 2003, Schönmann 1994, Yoshitomi & Klausnitzer 2003). Four of these new species are named after David Dudgeon reflecting the effectiveness of his field work. Several other species (especially in the Hydraenidae, Hydrophilidae, and Elmidae) are awaiting description. The water beetle fauna of Hong Kong is most interesting from a zoogeographical point of view. The degree of endemism seems to be unusually high since many of the Hong Kong species have not been detected elsewhere in China so far. Additional faunistic surveys in neighbouring areas of Guangdong would be highly appreciated. Some of these endemic species are known only from single localities and are thus definitely of global concern: e.g. Sinonychus lantau (Elmidae) (Fig. 4), which was found only in a stream near Ngau Kwu Long on Lantau Island (see Jäch & Ji 1995: Fig. 9), or Ceradryops matei (Dryopidae) collected from a wet rocky outcrop near the parking lot at Jardine's Lookout. Other species collected in Hong Kong by early coleopterists have not been found for more than 50 years (e.g. several gyrinids such as Orectochilus severini - see Mazzoldi 1995) and should thus be regarded as locally extinct.
|Fig. 3. Streams in the tropical rain forests of Xishuangbanna (Yunnan) were found to be exceedingly diverse with regard to water beetles.|
In Austria, biological water quality assessment has a long tradition. By 1968, the first map of the biological water quality of the Austrian rivers had already been published. In 1990 a national monitoring network for Austrian rivers was established with the sampling sites, frequency of investigations, parameters, and analytical methods legally fixed in the "ordinance on water quality monitoring". In 1985 and 1990 the maintainance and restoration of the ecological functioning of rivers was defined as one of the main targets for water protection in the Federal Act on Water. Besides the saprobic system an ecological evaluation using benthic bio-indicators, such as water beetles, provides the main tool to assess the ecological quality of aquatic habitats in Austria.
China, on the contrary, is still in a developmental stage with regard to biological water quality assessment. Despite the nation's tremendously rich fresh water resources, Chinese officials have largely neglected the problems of pollution and destruction of aquatic habitats caused by population growth (a fifth of the world's total population lives in China), booming economy and deforestation. However, Chinese experts have meanwhile realized the enormous threat and - in search of lasting solutions - have selected the Austrian monitoring system as a model. Hopefully, the results of the China Water Beetle Survey will - in the long run - form the basis for a modern biological water quality assessment and will thus help to protect some of the world's most diverse aquatic environments.
|Fig. 4. A stream near Ngau Kwu Long produced the first record worldwide for a water beetle species new to science and known solely from Lantau Island - Sinonychus lantau. It represents a new genus of the Riffle Beetle family (Elmidae).|
I thank Andrew E.Z. Short for reading the manuscript.
Jäch, M.A. (1995). Eulichadidae: Synopsis of the species of the genus Eulichas Jacobson from China, Laos and Vietnam. In: Water Beetles of China, Vol. I. (eds. M.A. Jäch and L. Ji), pp. 359-388, Wien: Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft in Österreich and Wiener Coleopterologenverein.
Jäch, M.A & Boukal, D. (1995). Elmidae: 2. Notes on Macronychini, with description of four new genera from China. In: Water Beetles of China, Vol. I. (eds. M.A Jäch and L. Ji), pp. 299-323, Wien: Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft in Österreich and Wiener Coleopterologenverein.
Jäch, M.A. & Ji, L. (1995). Introduction. In: Water Beetles of China, Vol. I. (eds. M.A. Jäch and L. Ji), pp. 5-32, Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft in Österreich and Wiener Coleopterologenverein, Wien.
Kodada, J. & Boukal, D.S. (2003). Dryopidae: II. Description of Ceradryops matei sp.n. from Hong Kong, and synonymical note on the genus Uenodryops Satô (Coleoptera),. In: Water Beetles of China, Vol. III. - (eds. M.A. Jäch and L. Ji), pp. 473-479, Wien: Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft in Österreich and Wiener Coleopterologenverein.
Mazzoldi, P. (1995). Gyrinidae: Catalogue of Chinese Gyrinidae. In: Water Beetles of China, Vol. I, (eds. M.A. Jäch and L. Ji.), pp. 155-172, Wien: Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft in Österreich and Wiener Coleopterologenverein.
Schönmann, H. (1994). Revision der Gattung Pelthydrus Orchymont. 1. Teil Globipelthydrus subgen.n. (Hydrophilidae). Koleopterologische Rundschau 64: 189-222.
Yoshitomi, H. & Klausnitzer, B. (2003). Scirtidae: World check list of Hydrocyphon Redtenbacher, and revision of the Chinese species (Coleoptera). In: Water Beetles of China, Vol. III. (eds. M.A. Jäch and L. Ji), pp. 519-537 Wien: Zoologisch-Botanische Gesellschaft in Österreich and Wiener Coleopterologenverein.
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