Biodiversity is in decline due to human land use, exploitation, and climate change. To be able to counteract this alarming trend it is paramount to closely follow the state and trends of biodiversity at global scales. Because this is impossible with traditional monitoring, the last decade has seen a strong push for solutions to solve this challenge. In aquatic ecosystems the monitoring of species from the DNA they leave behind, so called ‘environmental DNA’ (eDNA) has emerged as one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. In terrestrial ecosystems, however, the power of eDNA for monitoring has so far been hampered by the local scale of the samples. In this action, I address this shortcoming and propose to test the potential of airborne eDNA for the biodiversity monitoring of terrestrial animal communities. I have previously shown, that airborne animal DNA can be captured with air samplers, revealing the traces of over 200 species of arthropods and 16 species of vertebrates. Here, I will explore the full potential of this method by: (1) comparing the results from airborne eDNA sampling with the data from a long-term biodiversity monitoring program (2) test if an existing network of air filter stations used for particulate matter can be co-opted for biodiversity monitoring and if the decade long filter archive contains an archive of biodiversity information and (3) experimentally characterize airborne particles released by economically important insect species and pilot their targeted detection in environmental samples. I will conduct this work in the research group of Prof. Deiner who has pioneered the use of aquatic eDNA for monitoring and in interdisciplinary collaboration with aerosol scientists from ETH Zurich and Lund University. If successful, this project will demonstrate the foundation for a new way of monitoring terrestrial biodiversity that could be deployed at a global scale with already existing infrastructure.
Fields of science
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