Funding to GBOL from German government will activate specialized research team to reveal “dark taxa” in little-known but important insect groups
The German Barcode of Life project (GBOL), will receive about 5.3 million € in funding from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research to embark on new research that will examine nine important and speciose groups of insects in Germany.
“We need data on all insect taxa to better understand the drastic biodiversity losses observed in Europe and to analyze their causes,” said Wolfgang Wägele, professor of zoology in Bonn, Germany.
The GBOL consortium, led by the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, will focus its research on little known insect groups, generally found in abundance in Malaise traps – a tent-like structure used to trap mainly flying insects. This trap had been used previously by citizen scientists in Krefeld, who uncovered heavy losses of insect biomass in Germany over the past 30 years. The species contained in those samples have remained unidentified, but now with new funding and DNA barcoding technologies, it will be possible for scientists to analyze the specimens. The resulting data will greatly contribute to the completion of the insect database for the fauna in Central Europe.
Together, the GBOL and Krefeld group, along with specialists from the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology and the Natural History Museum in Stuttgart will clarify the taxonomy of small Hymenoptera (mainly parasitic wasps) and Diptera (flies) with the help of DNA-barcodes. Previous studies of insect biodiversity have not considered these taxonomic groups because of their difficult taxonomy and the lack of experts available in this research area. For this reason, these insects are often referred to as “dark taxa”.
This new project will contribute integral data to the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Consortium’s new research program – BIOSCAN – a seven-year, $180 million initiative that aims to complete a detailed faunal and floral inventory as part of a DNA barcode reference library with records for more than 20 million species of multicellular organisms on Earth.
“Without barcoding technology, we would not be able to detect trends of insect diversity and to analyze the effects of pesticides and land use on the ongoing insect decline,” said Wägele.
The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research has been supporting GBOL’s research programs since 2011. This new injection of funds is scheduled to be in place at GBOL by autumn this year.
International Barcode of Life Consortium
The International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Consortium is a research alliance with a mission to develop and apply a globally accessible, DNA-based system for the discovery and identification of all multicellular life. Our vision is to illuminate biodiversity for the benefit of our living planet.