During the recent years, next generation sequencing (NGS) techniques have become a new powerful tool for environmental monitoring. The taxonomic expertise previously needed for the species identification of aquatic macroinvertebrates, has often been lacking in organizations performing the environmental monitoring programs. DNA based assays to monitor the species abundance and biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems has been shown to be a rapid and efficient tool in biomonitoring. In metabarcoding technique, a standard gene fragment, usually cytochrome I oxidase, is amplified in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with fusion primers containing DNA-barcodes. Then, the amplicons are sequenced in a high-throughput sequencing run. The species present in the sample are identified based on BOLD-database searches. By this way, accurate results of the species diversity can be obtained a lot more rapidly than with the previous techniques.

In Germany, Bacillus thuringensis subsp. isralensis serotype H14 (Bti) has been registered as biocontrol agent for mosquito control, and has been in use since year 1976. Nowadays, the mosquito control area covers 600 km2 in the Upper Rhine Valley. Due to its specificity, it has been kept as an environmentally friendly option to other insecticides. However, some indications have been obtained, that also non-target organisms may be affected in these treatments and the long-term data of its direct effects to the non-target organisms is currently missing. The project “Moscoffee: Indirect effects of Bti-based mosquito control on food web in seasonal wetlands” aims to apply the metabarcoding techniques to monitor the effects of the Bti-treatment to the species diversity of non-biting midges in Upper Rhine Valley.

The project leader is Dr. Carsten Brühl (Community ecology and ecotoxicology), while the metabarcoding  part is being conducted by the conservation genetics group, including the group leader Dr. Kathrin Theissinger, PhD student MSc Anna Kästel and Aufland fellowship researcher Dr. Jenny Makkonen (1-4/2016). Close collaboration is made with MSc Vasco Elbrecht and Dr. Florian Leese from University of Duisburg-Essen, having practical level experience of the selected metabarcoding application and the method development.