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By Yang Feiyue | China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-28 08:21

(from top) An insect classified as a true bug (Coreoidea); a burnet moth caterpillar which carries cyanide poison; tussock moth caterpillar commonly found in Xishuangbanna rainforest. CHINA DAILY

A Japanese ecologist climbs trees in Yunnan to better understand the forest canopy, Yang Feiyue reports.

With simple tools, Akihiro Nakamura can quickly climb to the top of a tree that is more than 30 meters from the ground.

The Japanese ecologist knows his way around the forest in Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture, Southwest China's Yunnan province. But it's only half of the battle to get to the top.

"I normally stay up there for about half an hour, observing insects and collecting leaves to see how many leaves are eaten by insects," Nakamura, 44, says.

It's part of his research into the forest canopy, which refers to the upper vegetation in an area, generally formed by tree crowns. Different from the forest ground that is dark and humid, the canopies are more open and exposed to sunlight.

"It makes the canopies hot spots of biological diversity, engines of global biochemical processes, and the dynamic interface between organic nature and the atmosphere," Nakamura says.

"It plays an essential role in helping us obtain a clear picture of biodiversity and the functioning of forest ecosystems."

The forest has become a home away from home for him. Although Nakamura's focus has been on insect diversity on the canopies, he also stops to check insects on the ground wherever he goes.

"It makes our research both horizontal and vertical," he says.

In 2013, Nakamura accepted an invitation from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden after he finished his postdoctoral studies in ecology at Griffith University in Australia, where he also made Chinese friends.

He then learned about the botanical garden, which is home to some 13,000 tropical plant species. It boasts one of the most diverse collections of outdoor plants in the world, which makes it an ideal place for Nakamura's research. "So I decided to join."

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