Biodiversity Laboratory launched and MOU with IRRI signed by Hainan University vice president in Hai Kou, China

Yuan Qianhua, Cai Du Cheng, Hainan University, Hai Kou, P.R . China,
J. Catindig and S. Villareal, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines


Professor Hu Wenxin, vice president of Hainan University (left) and Mr Ronald Li of Kadoorie Charitable foundation (right) unveiling the plaque of the Biodiversity Laboratory.

Professor Hu Wenxin, vice president of Hainan University (left) and Mr Ronald Li of Kadoorie Charitable foundation (right) unveiling the plaque of the Biodiversity Laboratory.

On April 6, 2013, vice president of Hainan University, Professor  Hu Xinwen and Kadoorie Charitable Foundation project manager, Mr Ronald Li unveiled the plague symbolizing the opening of the new Biodiversity Laboratory in Hainan University. This contribution was part of the Hainan Project  on  “Conserving Arthropod Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Rice Environments of Hainan Island, China”.  Funded by the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation (KCF)  based in Hong Kong, the Hainan Project started in 2010 to establish collaborative research between scientists at IRRI, Hainan University and Zhejiang University to better understand arthropod biodiversity in rice environments. Being an island and less intensively cultivated, Hainan can potentially have a rich floral and faunal biodiversity. In rice environments, arthropod biodiversity plays an important role in providing ecosystem system services, particularly in pest regulation and pollination.


Professor, scientists and students tour the new Biodiversity Laboratory

After the  expeditions, more than 20,000 arthropod specimens were collected and contained about 2373 species and only 1578 have been identified. About 4,200 specimens have been named and preserved and together with 32 holotype and 4 paratype specimens of new spider species are now returned to Hainan University and placed in the new Biodiversity Laboratory. Equipped with imported storage cabinets the Laboratory can provide the safe environment to store these rare specimens.  About 15% of the spider species and 12% of the hymenoptera species (yet to be identified and described) were found to be new discoveries indicating the huge biodiversity richness in the Island. The new Laboratory is a modest beginning of biodiversity research in Hainan and will serve as the research and learning center to further promote biodiversity research.

The 53 new spider species have been named and some in honor of well known Chinese scientists. Descriptions of the new species are published in a monograph  by Barrion et al 2012. The new hymenoptera species have yet to be described and named.  Spider species richness was found to be linked to insecticide use and bund floral biodiversity .



Signing of the MOU between IRRI and Hainan University. Duncan Macintosh representing the Director General of IRRI and Professor Hu Xinmeng, vice president of Hainan University exchanging documents.

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between IRRI and Hainan University was signed to mark the research collaboration. Hainan University vice president, Professor Hu Xinwen signed for the University while Duncan Macintosh, Development Director, represent the IRRI Director General.  The Hainan Project was the first collaboration between IRRI and Hainan University and the new MOU will lead to further collaborations in education and research.



Zeng-Rong Zhu, KL Heong, Duncan Macintosh, Ronald Li, Yuan Qianhua, Monina Escalada and Cai Ducheng in front of the ecological engineering mural prepared for Hainan Biodiversity Laboratory.


Barrion, A.T., Barrion-Dupo, A.L.A, Catindig, J., Villareal, S., Cai, D., Yuan Q., Heong, K.L. 2013.  New species of spiders (Araneae) from Hainan Island, China.  UPLB Musuem Publications in Natural History No. 3.




Paper on the spider fauna of Hainan published

Some of the 167 species of spiders collected in Hainan.

Click here to download the paper

In August 2010, a spider biodiversity exploration yielded 10,426 specimens comprising of 167 species under 97 genera and 19 families. Of these, 21 species (or 12.6% of total species collected) were found to be new to science and they were from seven families, namely: Araneidae (2 spp.), Clubionidae (3 spp.), Lycosidae (5 spp.), Salticidae (2 spp.), Theridiidae (7 spp.) and one each in Thomisidae and Zodariidae. Sixty-six species, 40 genera and two families were added to Hainan spider biodiversity checklist. In decreasing order, the 6 main families were Oxyopidae (4,259 specimens), Araneidae (3,380), Tetragnathidae (1113), Thomisidae (548), Lycosidae (518) and Salticidae (383). The Immatures of the lynx spider, Oxyopes spp. (Oxyopidae) and orb-web spider, Araneus inustus (Araneidae) were most dominant species found. Across the 4 sites, total spider collected were highest in Danzhou (4,036 specimens in 17 families), followed by Lingshui (3,904 spiders in 14 families),  Sanya (1,254 spiders in 9 families) and Haikou (1,231 spiders in 11 families). In Danzhou 4 families – Oxyopidae, Araneidae, Tetragnathidae and Salticidae were most abundant in while in Lingshui, Araneidae, Oxyopidae, Lycosidae and Thomisidae were most abundant. In sSanya 3 families–Tetragnathidae, Oxyopidae and Araneidae dominated Sanya while I Haikou Oxyopidae and Lycosidae were more abundant. Two claw types – trionychus or 3-clawed (9,454 specimens in 10 families or 0.7% of all spider catch) vs. dionychus or 2-clawed (972 in 9 families or 9.3%) and two feeding structures – hunters (5,833 specimens in 13 families, 55.95%) vs web builders (4,593 specimens in 6 families, 44.05%) characterized the spiders from Hainan.

Spider conservation through insecticide reduction and habitat manipulation around rice fields will likely maintain the rich biodiversity.



A report on Hainan farmers’ knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) on pest management and ecological engineering

M. Escalada, Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines,
Liang Wang, Qianhua Yuan, Ducheng Cai, Hainan University, Hai Kou and
KL Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines

Full report available for download here.

A baseline farmer survey was conducted among 411 randomly selected rice farmers in Haikou and Lingshui cities in Hainan province, China. Respondent farmers were about 45 years old with about 8 years of schooling. More male farmers (57.2%) than female farmers (42.8%) were interviewed. The average of three (3) family members worked in each farm.

Hybrid indica varieties were grown widely in the study areas and more than half of the respondents (55.4%) considered the brown planthopper (BPH) as their most important pest followed by the leaffolder and stem borers. The rice leaffolder was the spray target at seedling and tillering stages while the brown planthopper was the key pest at booting and heading stages. The average yield loss caused by pests reported was 1652kg/ha and a mean number of sprays per farmer/season was 3.62; the lowest number of sprays was 1 and the highest, 13.  Farmers’ yields averaged 5.4 tons/ha and there was negative correlation between yields and number of insecticide sprays used.

Most farmers reported not planting particular plants on areas around their rice paddy (41.9%). Less than one-third (31.1%) planted vegetables while 30.2 % planted fruits or fruit trees. On the rice bunds, most farmers interviewed (93.2%) did not grow any plants there although a few raised vegetables (4.9%), fruits (1.7%), legumes (0.5%), and sweet potatoes (0.5%). Most respondents did not seem to have knowledge of beneficial insects and animals and they could not recognize differentiate them.

With regard to farmers’ attitudes toward planthopper management, most believed that insecticide applications are needed as insecticide spraying would always increase yields.

A large proportion of respondents knew that the planthoppers laid eggs inside the leaf sheath of a rice plant and insecticides could not reach them.  Most also believed that beneficial insects can suppress planthopper populations.

Regarding the causes of pest outbreaks, most of the respondents knew that high seed rates could be a factor but they were uncertain about other outbreak factors such as high fertilizer rates and insecticides.  Respondents’ attitudes toward ecological engineering techniques seemed positive as most agreed that bunds with some wild beneficial flowers would attract beneficial insects such as bees and spiders.  They also believed that keeping beneficial flowers on bunds could reduce the need for insecticide sprays, could help the bees, beautify rice fields and improve health to farmers. However about two-thirds of the respondents indicated that they were not willing to plant wild flowers or beneficial plants on their rice bunds as it would require more work.

Hainan to Start Ecological Engineering Evaluation in Famers’ Fields

Yuan Qianhua and  Ducheng Cai, Hainan University, Hai Kou, Hainan Province, China

Group picture


Hainan University and IRRI scientists have completed two arthropod biodiversity explorations, collected time series data from two sites and a survey of farmers on their beliefs and practices in pest management and biodiversity conservation. Detailed analyses of the data collected will be conducted. Project scientists met in Hai Kou, 15 – 16 July 2011 to develop activities for 2011 and 2012 that can contribute towards Hainan’s green programs.  Early this year the Hainan government issued instructions to curb pesticide misuse by implementing strict regulations (See in Chinese

Ecological engineering

In the coming rice seasons, ecological engineering experiments will begin in a village called Longji.  Here the farmers have been growing rice for many years.  The 300 families living there originated from Fujian and have been growing rice for the palace.  The area grows two crops of rice and one crop of vegetables, use little chemicals and leave most of the no crop habitats intact.  Floral biodiversity is high and so is the arthropod biodiversity.  The evaluation will include an arthropod biodiversity exploration. A farm survey will also be conducted in the village to uncover details from the farmers the constraints they face and potential threats to their farming practices as modernization encroaches.

Google map of Longji


Longji woman looking after rice drying


Drying rice on concrete ground in Longji

Spider biodiversity related to bund habitat and insecticide use in Hainan

Alberto Barrion, S Villareal, J Catindig, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines and Ducheng Cai, Hainan University, Danzhou, Hainan, China

Map of Hainan Island showing locations of the 4 sampling sites

In the first exploration, we collected 10,424 spider individual using various sampling methods and have sorted them out to species. Spider biodiversity is impressive and several species had never been described (Read:New species described). The spider samples were obtained from Hai Kou, Lingshui, Sanya and Danzhou rice fields.  We have also interviewed farmers in these 4 collection sites and obtained their insecticide use patterns. To determine species richness we used the rarefaction method available in ECOSIM and EstimateS (Gotelle and Entsminger, 2005 and Colwell 2009) and  The rarefaction technique was applied to compute species richness to avoid the sample size sensitivity.

There is very high spider biodiversity in Hainan Island. Photo credit: S. Villareal.

Spider species richness seems more related to bund vegetation.  In Haikou and Sanya where farmers in the sampling sites had applied herbicides in the bunds, species richness, S were extremely low, 35.7 for Sanya and 37 for Haikou.  Highest species richness was found in Danzhou (69.7), where insecticide sprays were lowest and rice fields were richly surrounded by vegetation.  Bunds were not sprayed with herbicides. In Lingshui, an area with intensive rice cropping and bunds were not applied with herbicides and often planted with vegetables and fruits the spider species richness was intermediate at 54.5.  The rarefaction curves are shown below.

Rarefaction curves of the spider species richness and abundance. Species richness was compared at abundance equal 1231.

The analysis indicated that spider species richness is probably highly dependent on bund vegetation as these habitats can provide the refugia between rice crops for hiding and reproduction. Thus the two sites that farmers applied herbicides to the bunds had the lowest spider richness.  In the sites where bund integrity was not destroyed by herbicide sprays, spider species richness was higher. Insecticide sprays also have effects as in Danzhou where much less insecticides were used in the rice fields, spider species richness was significantly the highest.


Colwell, R.K. 2009. EstimateS: Statistical estimation of species richness and shared species from samples. Version 8.

Gotelli, N.J. and Entsminger, G.L. 2005. Ecosim: Null Models Software for Ecology. Version 7.72. Acquired Intelligence Inc, & Kesey-Bear.

Initiatives for Green Economy, Evaluating Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and Decoupling Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth

K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines

In the last post on IPBES we discussed about the initiative to establish a global platform to link agriculture and environmental protection. There were several earlier global initiatives along this direction and one is the GEI (Green Economy Initiative). The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2008 developed the green economy concepts aimed at improving human well-being and social equity that will significantly reduce environmental risks and ecological scarcities and will be low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. The main activities are:

1. Produce the Green Economy Report that will analyze the macroeconomic, sustainability, and poverty reduction implications of green investment in a range of sectors from renewable energy to sustainable agriculture and providing guidance on policies that can catalyze increased investment in these sectors.
2. Provide advisory services on ways to move towards a green economy in specific countries.
3. Engage a wide range of research, non-governmental organizations, businesses and UN partners in implementing the Green Economy Initiative.

The Green Economy can contribute to poverty alleviation, can create new jobs and new investment opportunities.

Related to the Green Economy Initiative is the TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) study hosted by UNEP. At the meeting of the environment ministers of the G8 countries in Potsdam in March 2007, the German government proposed a study on ‘”The economic significance of the global loss of biological diversity” as part of the so-called “Potsdam Initiative” for biodiversity. The analyses indicate that maintaining healthy ecosystems is often the less expensive option and so TEEB suggests a shift in focus to discover and work with the range of ecosystem services.

Recently in February 2011, the Green Economy and Environmental Governance reform was backed by world’s environment ministers in Nairobi (click here for details).

UNEP on May 12, 2011 released the report entitled  ”Decoupling: natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth” urging for the “decoupling” of economic growth rates from rates of natural resource consumption and for humanity to “do more with less”.

The International development community is now preparing for the next Earth Summit, the Rio +20 in June 2012 in Brazil. This major sustainable development conference to mark the 20th year after the Rio summit will provide opportunities to accelerate and to scale-up a global transition to a low-carbon and resource-efficient Green Economy.  The vision for Rio+20  – System change for green economy and poverty reduction was presented at the UN Headquarters in New York on May 6 2011.

Arthropod Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Conservation in Hainan – Huge Challenges Ahead

L. Wang, Hainan University, Haikou, P R China
M.M. Escalada, Visayas State University, Baybay, Leyte, Philippines
K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines

Hongqi rice area, Hainan Island with high habitat biodiversity and potentials for ecosystem services

Ling Shui rice area, Hainan Island with low habitat biodiversity and highly vulnerable to planthopper invasions.

Many rice growing areas in Hainan are established in the valley bottoms and are surrounding by forest habitats. These non rice habitats are potentially rich in predators and parasitoids that can render ecosystem services and reduce vulnerability of the rice fields to planthopper outbreaks.  However, farmers’ frequent prophylactic insecticide applications are threats to biodiversity and the service they provide. Ecological engineering techniques, which involve increasing bund flora to provide nectar resources to beneficial arthropods and reducing prophylactic insecticide use, can be applied to improve pest management as well as to reduce insecticide use. We conducted a baseline survey of 411 farmer respondents in Yun Long and San Men towns, Haikou City, and Xin Po and Ti Meng towns in Ling Shui county in Hainan Island to assess farmers’ attitudes toward pests, pest control and biodiversity conservation in December 2010.  Here are some preliminary findings.

Farmer interview in Ling Shui county

Negative attitudes

We found that only 10% of the farmers interviewed were prepared to practice ecological engineering by growing nectar-rich flowers on the rice bunds; 63% were unwilling and 38% uncertain. Most (78%) felt that the bunds in Hainan are too narrow for growing beneficial flowers on them and it would be extra work (61%).  Besides, farmers often burn crop residues or apply herbicides which would affect the bund vegetation.  A large proportion also felt that increasing bund flora would be a waste of time (57%).

Attitudes that favor the frequent use of insecticides would be another set of challenges (Table 1).  While 63% of the farmers believed that all insects are pests, they also believed that insecticide would kill beneficial arthropods (58%). Perhaps the biggest challenge might be the close association of insecticide use to high yields (83%).  This is contradictory to scientific findings that there were either no effect or negative relationships between insecticide use and yields.  Only 31% believed that insecticide use could cause more pest problems and frequent spraying would cause hopper outbreaks (36%). And to manage planthoppers most (67%) believed that they must use prophylactic spraying.

Table 1:  Farmer beliefs favoring insecticide use (expressed as % cases “true”).

Beliefs % farmers
All insects are harmful to rice crop 63.1
Insecticide sprays always increase yields 83.5
When planthopper are present I must spray 85.5
No other way except insecticides to control planthoppers 73.9
Hybrid rice need more insecticide sprays 55.5

Interviewing a woman farmer in San Men town, Haikou City

Positive attitudes

On the other hand, farmers were aware that increasing flora would benefit bees (86%), would increase beneficial arthropods such as spiders (53%), would help keep planthopper populations low (67%) and would reduce insecticide use (52%). Farmers also felt that flowers on the bunds would beautify the rural setting (71%) and even improve health (65%). In addition farmers believed that insecticide spraying would harm their health (55%), that flowers on the bunds would help bees (81%) which would be important to pollinate fruit trees (91%).  In addition most farmers (71%) believed that flowers on the bunds would make fields look beautiful, improve health (65%), help keep beneficial organisms (57%) and help in lowering planthopper populations (67%). These positive attitudes can be key issues for communication campaigns to focus on.

A pesticide retailer in Hainan with a wide range of products packed as FMCG sachets

Policies and pesticide marketing

Besides farmers’ attitudes major challenges for change would be in the highly dominant pro pesticide policies and marketing in Hainan.  Pesticides are sold as FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) with numerous names, packaging and poor labeling.  One product was named Da Xiao Tong Sha or “Big Small, Kill All”. The marketing strategies for FMCG mainly focus on emotional buying and no thinking is generally needed.  Pro pesticide policies include categorizing pesticides as consumer items, price subsidies, free hand-out distributions and facilitating their use as inputs in production systems.  Pro ecosystem service policies on the other hand values ecosystem services, puts on an environmental tax on pesticides and categorizing pesticides as a non-FMCG and implementing licensing programs for distributors. Unless pro pesticide policies are modified, huge challenges to implement biodiversity and ecosystem services conservation techniques will remain as they are the biggest obstacles to sustainable development.