Biodiversity assessment in project planning using DNA barcoding
At the beginning of July 2018, the BRIDGE-1 project BIO-PLANBAR was approved by the FFG (BMVIT). The University of Graz takes the project lead, with the Universalmuseum Joanneum and the Ökoteam as partners. The project has a duration of 3 years.
In Austria, the realization of major construction projects typically requires an environmental impact assessment and a positive evaluation depends on the project’s conformity with nature conservation interests. This implies that massive negative impacts on species valuable from a conservation perspective should be avoided or compensated for. To estimate the impact of a construction project on the animals and plants in the affected area, extensive knowledge of the local fauna and flora is required. This means that in the planning phase the project leader has to assess the fauna and flora in the area in which the project should be realized. Typically this is done by recording the presence/abundance of selected quality-determining key species from certain indicator groups. Very often, traditional species identification by means of classic morphological characters is time and cost intensive. In the framework of the proposed project we intend to optimize the process of species identification for environmental impact assessments and make it more cost- and time efficient.
Specifically, we aim at a
i) faster and
ii) more comprehensive species identification.
To achieve these goals we want to establish DNA-barcoding, or more precisely a comprehensive high quality DNA-barcode reference database, for the relevant taxa, which should allow for reliable species identification of morphologically “difficult” developmental stages or (in some taxa) females.
Advantages of applying DNA-barcoding are
i) a larger set of identified species,
ii) an extension of the study period,
iii) a faster species inventory, and
iv) in the long run the potential application of non-invasive methods (e.g. eDNA).
Even if, in principle, the application of DNA-barcoding (or metabarcoding of mixed samples) is promising, its success depends on the availability of a comprehensive high quality reference data base. Reference data for the relevant taxa should be generated in the framework of the proposed project; i.e. DNA-barcodes will be generated and uploaded (together with the corresponding metadata) to the Austrian (ABOL) and international (BOLD) barcoding reference data bases. In addition we will evaluate i) the limits of DNA-barcoding in the relevant taxa, ii) whether in morphological difficult taxa species identification based on DNA data is more straight forward than based on classic morphological data, and iii) whether there are certain taxa for which DNA barcoding does not work. Finally, we intend to establish guidelines for sampling, when data analysis is based at least in part on molecular data.
Project status: completed (Project period: 1.7.2018 – 31.12.2021)
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