The moths of Cusuco are among the strangest and most beautiful in the world. This project would take advantage of the network of new high-intensity mercury vapour collecting lamps installed at each camp site in Cusuco National Park to study the diversity of moths attracted to light. Currently, two Families (Sphingidae and Saturniidae) are well-studied and identifiable to species-level in Cusuco. Projects could focus on examining the effect of habitat variables on the abundance and diversity of these groups, or patterns of community composition over the wet-dry season transition. There would also be scope to improve our knowledge about the process of light trapping by studying little-known aspects such as the effects of surrounding habitat structure and the attractive radius of traps.
The forests of Central America are some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world, partly because they are the meeting point of two great faunas – those from North America and those from South America which had evolved separately. Many of these ecosystems have been badly degraded but there is a proposal to join currently discontinuous areas of forest into a continuous Mesoamerican forest corridor running from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico (where there are other Opwall teams) to Panama. Part of this corridor will encompass the cloud forests of Cusuco National Park in Honduras – a site rich in endemics and endangered species yet threatened by unchecked illegal deforestation.
The Opwall survey teams have been working in Cusuco since 2003 and the data produced has resulted in the Park being listed as one of the top 50 most irreplaceable protected areas in the world (based on a review of 173,000 sites worldwide). As well as underlining the biological value of Cusuco, the datasets collected by the Opwall teams are also being used to make an application for funding through Natural Forest Standard (NFS). This will allow carbon credits from the Park to be issued, which can then be sold to multinational companies wishing to offset their carbon emissions and at the same time help protect biodiversity. Funding obtained in this way will then be used to manage and protect the park and the many unique species it supports.