The Symbiosis Evolution Group is one of the teams contributing to Insect Biome Atlas (IBA), an international collaborative effort to describe in detail the insect faunas of two biologically and geologically very different countries: Sweden and Madagascar. The project, one of the largest ongoing insect biodiversity surveys, addresses key questions about the insect diversity:
> How are insect species distributed across habitats, sites and seasons?
> What are the key environmental factors shaping insect diversity?
The IBA team uses Malaise traps to sample flying insects at 250 sites in Sweden and Madagascar over the course of a year, and long-term for some of these sites. Rather than manually sorting millions of captured insects, we are using molecular methods, high-throughput sequencing, and bioinformatics to detect and quantify species in thousands of collected insect community samples. We will then use the resulting data, as well as long-term measurements of abiotic and biotic variables at each site, for advanced modelling. This approach is going to provide an unprecedented level of information on the species distribution across geographical distances and environmental gradients, and on factors that shape the insect communities.
Our team focuses on two aspects of the project: the development of molecular and bioinformatic methods for sample processing and species discovery, and the description of the microbiomes across the large collection of insects.
The IBA consortium is a key collaborators for the other major research effort by the Symbiosis Evolution Group, the Insect Microbiome project funded by Opus 16 project (NCN) and Polish Returns project (NAWA). IBA will provide access to data on the distribution of species in time and space, as well as to collected specimens. We will use them to study the microbiomes using high-throughput sequencing techniques.
Project website: https://www.insectbiomeatlas.com/
Funding: Knut and Alice Wallenberg Fundation
Here, Andreia Miraldo, IBA project manager, checks a Malaise trap set up in Southern Sweden in January 2019. Malaise traps are large, tent-like structures used for trapping, killing, and preserving flying insects, particularly from the orders Hymenoptera and Diptera, and thought to provide the most comprehensive and least biased insect community samples. During 2019, IBA sampled insects using 250 such traps distributed across Sweden and Madagascar!