Monitoring plant biodiversity in protected areas to determine temporal plant resource availability and utilization by insects

Responsibility: Justus-Liebig University (JLU)

Using metabarcoding tools we identify plant traces carried in to malaise traps by insects. This will provide information about which plants are used by insects at various times of the year. The plant traces refer to pollen or plant fragments present on the bodies of insects and digested plant material expelled from the digestive tract. The results are used to provide management recommendations for sustainable nature and insect conservation with emphasis on the management of plant biodiversity for the insects’ benefit.

The Malaise traps are located in 21 different nature reserves with five traps per transect that extend into the agricultural landscape. A total of 105 Malaise traps will be sampled over a period of two years, the sample containers will be changed every two weeks.

The transect of the Malaise traps on the Rhine slopes of Gutenfels Castle in Rhineland-Palatinate with the changing vegetation along the transect.

The plant traces are plotted on a filter paper by vacuum filtration. This filter is quartered, three replicates are processed by metabarcoding, one serves as a voucher and control. The results are species lists that reflect the plant-insect interaction in the course of the year.

Filtered plant remains and microscopic pollen images.

Vegetation surveys in the immediate vicinity of the Malaise traps are used to analyze which potential resources are available to the insects, while the metabarcoding analyses show which resources are actually being used throughout the season. Vegetation images in a plot design along the transects additionally allow to trace spatial activities of the insects in the course of the year, since very little is known about insect flight distances for plant and flower visits.

Orchis militaris and Himantoglossum hircinum in the Koppelstein-Helmestal nature reserve in Rhineland-Palatinate.


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