At the same time, Terry Erwin in 1982, using ropes and climbing to the tops of trees, was about to answer the following question: How many insect species can inhabit an acre (0.40 hectares) of tropical forest ? He chose the Guácimo tree (Luehea seemanii) for this test. Once he reached the top, he sprayed the tree creating a cloud of insecticide and waited for the insects to fall, he then collected them with white sheets that had been previously placed on the floor. What he found completely revolutionized the study of insect diversity in tropical forests. In a single tree around 1200 species of beetles were found, and contrasting this information with the number species of trees found in tropical forests one could estimate that the diversity of insects in tropical forests is approximately thirty million species (previously it was believed that there were no more than three million species).
This finding completely changed the way we see the diversity of tropical forests and made the investigators focus on the forest’s canopy. It is now known that about 70% of the diversity of a tropical forest live in the treetops and that is why today we have devised a number of mechanisms to access the canopy, ranging from hot air balloons to mechanical cranes.
In Mashpi our Observation Tower and Sky Bike give the opportunity for our visitors to feel like these modern explorers are reaching places that only birds could fly to, providing a unique view and the ability to travel through treetops. From the Sky Bike, we can see trees full of mosses, bromeliads, orchids, and other epiphytes. We can hear birds chirping or simply admire the scenery; on the other hand, the Observation Tower allows us to move up from the forest floor to the top of the tree and appreciating each level that forms the structure of the forest.