Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Merging DNA metabarcoding and ecological network analysis to understand and build resilient terrestrial ecosystems

Lookup NU author(s): Professor 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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Evans DM, Kitson JJN, Lunt DH, Straw NA, Pocock MJO

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Functional Ecology

Year: 2016

Volume: 30

Pages: 1904-1916

Print publication date: 01/12/2016

Online publication date: 21/03/2016

Acceptance date: 29/02/2016

Date deposited: 21/03/2016

ISSN (print): 0269-8463

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2435

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12659


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric