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Plant-derived environmental DNA complements diversity estimates from traditional arthropod monitoring methods but outperforms them detecting plant-arthropod interactions
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  • Sven Weber,
  • Manuel Stothut,
  • Lisa Mahla,
  • Alanah Kripp,
  • Lena Hirschler,
  • Nina Lenz,
  • Anneke Junker,
  • Sven Künzel,
  • Henrik Krehenwinkel
Sven Weber
University of Trier
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Manuel Stothut
University of Trier
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Lisa Mahla
University of Trier
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Alanah Kripp
Rheinland-Pfälzische Technische Universität Kaiserslautern-Landau
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Lena Hirschler
University of Trier
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Nina Lenz
University of Trier
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Anneke Junker
University of Trier
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Sven Künzel
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology
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Henrik Krehenwinkel
Universität Trier

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Our limited knowledge about the ecological drivers of global arthropod decline highlights the urgent need for more effective biodiversity monitoring approaches. Monitoring of arthropods is commonly performed using passive trapping devices, which reliably recover diverse communities, but provide little ecological information on the sampled taxa. Especially the manifold interactions of arthropods with plants are barely understood. A promising strategy to overcome this shortfall is environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding of arthropods from plant material they have interacted with. However, the accuracy of this approach has not been sufficiently tested. In four experiments, we exhaustively test the comparative performance of plant-derived eDNA from surface washes of plants and homogenized plant material against traditional monitoring approaches. We show that the recovered communities of plant-derived eDNA and traditional approaches only partly overlap, with eDNA recovering various additional cryptic taxa. This suggests eDNA as a useful complementary tool to traditional monitoring. Despite the differences in recovered taxa, estimates of community α- and β-diversity between both approaches are well correlated, highlighting the utility of eDNA as a broad scale tool for community monitoring. Last, eDNA outperforms traditional approaches in the recovery of plant-specific arthropod communities. Unlike traditional monitoring, eDNA revealed fine-scaled community differentiation between individual plants and even within plant compartments. Especially specialized herbivores are better recovered with eDNA. Our results highlight the value of plant derived eDNA analysis for large-scale biodiversity assessments that include information about community level interactions.
09 Jun 2023Submitted to Molecular Ecology Resources
12 Jun 2023Submission Checks Completed
12 Jun 2023Assigned to Editor
12 Jun 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
26 Jun 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
24 Aug 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
21 Sep 20231st Revision Received
30 Sep 2023Submission Checks Completed
30 Sep 2023Assigned to Editor
30 Sep 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
26 Oct 2023Editorial Decision: Accept