Biodiversity is in the air – metabarcoding of airborne eDNA for the biodiversity monitoring of flying insects
Biodiversity monitoring of insects is a daunting task, traditionally requiring prohibitive amounts of time and taxonomic expertise. Metabarcoding of environmental DNA (eDNA) has propelled the field of biodiversity monitoring of macroorganism into a new era. Metabarcoding allows the simultaneous identification of multiple species using short characteristic gene sequences, while eDNA refers to the DNA released by organisms into water, sediment or air. In a pilot experiment we have shown for the first time that airborne eDNA can be used to detect flying insects. Here we propose to develop and validate the method for the biodiversity monitoring of insects. The method development will be coordinated with other BECC researchers that start using eDNA in a wide range of projects, to foster competence building and institutional learning about eDNA methods at BECC. The proposal is an interdisciplinary collaboration between three departments, two faculties and two strategic research areas (BECC and MERGE), leveraging the unique combination of taxonomical, ecological, molecular biological and aerosol technological expertise present. The proposed method has applications in biodiversity studies, invasive species monitoring, pest monitoring and public health.