Lookup NU author(s): Dr Darren Evans,
Dr James Kitson
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).
1.Significant advances in both mathematical and molecular approaches in ecology offer unprecedented opportunities to describe and understand ecosystem functioning. Ecological networks describe interactions between species, the underlying structure of communities and the function and stability of ecosystems. They provide the ability to assess the robustness of complex ecological communities to species loss, as well as a novel way of guiding restoration. However, empirically quantifying the interactions between entire communities remains a significant challenge.2.Concomitantly, advances in DNA sequencing technologies are resolving previously intractable questions in functional and taxonomic biodiversity and provide enormous potential to determine hitherto difficult to observe species-interactions. Combining DNA metabarcoding approaches with ecological network analysis presents important new opportunities for understanding large-scale ecological and evolutionary processes, as well as providing powerful tools for building ecosystems that are resilient to environmental change.3.We propose a novel ‘nested tagging’ metabarcoding approach for the rapid construction of large, phylogenetically structured species-interaction networks. Taking tree-insect-parasitoid ecological networks as an illustration, we show how measures of network robustness, constructed using DNA metabarcoding, can be used to determine the consequences of tree species loss within forests, and forest habitat loss within wider landscapes. By determining which species and habitats are important to network integrity, we propose new directions for forest management.4.Merging metabarcoding with ecological network analysis provides a revolutionary opportunity to construct some of the largest, phylogenetically structured species-interaction networks to date, providing new ways to: (i) monitor biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; (ii) assess the robustness of interacting communities to species loss; and (iii) build ecosystems that are more resilient to environmental change.
Author(s): Evans DM, Kitson JJN, Lunt DH, Straw NA, Pocock MJO
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Functional Ecology
Print publication date: 01/12/2016
Online publication date: 21/03/2016
Acceptance date: 29/02/2016
ISSN (print): 0269-8463
ISSN (electronic): 1365-2435
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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