international online community for dna barcoding professionals
Session: Barcoding Biotas
• What does your proposed session cover? Why is it important to barcoding?
Sally Adamowicz (SA): “Barcoding Biotas” refers to conducting an all-taxon biodiversity inventory of a selected region using DNA barcoding methods. This approach represents an important complement to the taxon-focused global campaigns more typical in the barcoding community. There are few, if any, regions in the world where we truly have an understanding of the extent of cohabiting biodiversity across taxa. This is important for understanding ecosystem complexity as well as for predicting the scale of the task for ultimately barcoding all species on the planet. Barcoding Biotas also represents a program in which methods are developed for future barcoding surveys.
Chris Meyer (CM): Unlike most other campaigns that are taxonomically focused, Barcoding Biotas focuses on entire ecosystems. In the face of likely significant global change in the coming century, it is critical we understand ecosystem functioning and the roles that various taxa play within those complex adaptive systems. It is difficult to say how much biodiversity is needed to maintain ecosystem services if you don’t know how much diversity is there in the first place. In the process of digitizing all macrobial species in an ecosystem, we cannot ignore the difficult groups – we are challenged to create barcode libraries for all phyla encountered. The success we have in tackling this challenge will have immense spillover effects to other similar ventures, not just in the molecular challenges, but also in standardizing collection effort to make comparisons across latitudes, longitudes, habitats and domains.
• What is your vision for the 4th Conference?
SA: During the 4th conference, this session will be a venue for presenting research results from two intensively studied sites (Churchill, Manitoba, Canada and Moorea, French Polynesia) as well as a place for dissemination of results and proposed plans for incipient Barcoding Biotas projects elsewhere in the world. This will be a setting for sharing insights gained from these intensive surveys as well as for discussing research remaining to be done. Sharing expertise and planning field exchanges would be an excellent way to attempt to “complete” the surveys of single sites. My vision for the session is that we should go beyond species counts for these sites to discuss insights into ecology and evolution and to discuss ways of using the baseline data for monitoring and deeper understanding of life.
CM: I think we’ll see a shift, at least in our session, from building the reference library – writing the book, so to speak, to using the library. We will see uses of regional barcode libraries to build food webs, test ecologic theories about functional redundancy and trophic species, and model complex adaptive networks. We have started to look at community assembly processes, e.g. competition vs. niche-conservatism, in standardized collection units. We are beginning to get a handle on the variation in both time and space of biodiversity writ large, and that’s pretty exciting. Various collection techniques will be compared to test the efficiency of documenting diversity, for instance comparing standard adult-based voucher collecting versus plantkonic larval collections. We will see the utility of intelligently designing molecular techniques based of well fleshed out reference libraries that minimize primer bias, false negatives and test the accuracy of relative abundance data generated from blender based approaches.
• What research do you do?
SA: In addition to co-ordinating the Barcoding Biotas program at Churchill, I conduct research on phylogenetic community assembly patterns. My students and I aim to understand the relative roles of abiotic factors and biological interactions such as competition and predation in structuring communities. MSc Candidate Elizabeth Boyle is undertaking a detailed investigation of macro-invertebrate communities in Churchill’s freshwater environments.
CM: My background is in phylogenetic systematics and I still conduct comprehensive phylogenetic analyses of interesting reef-associated groups, mostly gastropods, in order to compare and contrast processes that generated and maintain those patterns. Recently, a good chunk of my focus has shifted to take on the challenge of characterizing biodiversity as digital signatures such that we can sample diversity like we sample temperature. As the director of the Biocode Project, I am interested in the efficiencies of conducting All Taxonomic Biodiversity Inventories; what’s the best way to write the book? But then how can we best use that book and engage new technologies to test fundamental questions about how ecosystems are structured and how they work? We are testing a number of comparative methods of sampling diversity, standardized approaches in the field that capture a sufficient snapshot of ecosystems in time and space so we can use that information to inform ecosystem functioning; everything from tows, traps, cores and guts.
• If people are interested in this topic, what can they do to get involved in addition to submitting an abstract?
SA: Interested researchers could
CM: Great suggestions Sally – I couldn’t agree more with your suggestion to get in touch with either local efforts or co-ordinate efforts within country to address diversity in focal regions. Both Sally and I can assist in that, and point people in the the right directions, either to persons or resources. These concentrated heavily characterized (barcoded) biotas will attract research and become focal point for future monitoring of ecosystem health in a changing biosphere. Come to session and ask questions, or use the Connect Site to get in touch.