Diversity of insects in nature conservation areas (DINA) - a joint research project on insect decline

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Project description


Due to their crucial functional role as pollinators, destruents, predators and prey, insects are of central importance for healthy ecosystems and key to all efforts to maintain biodiversity and preserve essential ecosystem services. Insects represent the major component of animal diversity in land ecosystems and affect nearly all food webs. Serious losses in the regional and local diversity of insects do not only lead to a decline in insectivorous species of higher trophic levels, but also reduces pollination and seed dispersal of plants.

After the publication of a study that showed more than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas in 2017 and people protesting to protect insects and biodiversity in general the German government issued an Action Programme for Insect Conservation in 2019. In order to stop the decline in biological diversity and turn it into a positive trend, we need a better database than currently available - especially in nature reserves in the agricultural landscape. Within the Action Programme for Insect Conservation  the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded the joint research project DINA (diversity of insects in nature conservation areas).

DINA is coordinated by Gerlind Lehmann at the NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) and consists of eight partner organisations. In DINA the diversity of insects and environmental parameters will be recorded and documented in 21 representative nature conservation areas spread across Germany throughout the year. A standardized insect monitoring scheme is used using Malaise traps and a Citizen Science approach and insects are identified in a meta barcoding approach. Along the 21 gradients, running from agricultural fields into nature conservation areas, the vegetation and habitat parameters of the surrounding landscape is recorded. Additionally soil, plants and insects as well as tree bark samples are collected for pesticide analysis. A detailed pollen analysis provides information on plant-insect networks at the study sites. Additionally, the civil society is actively involved from the start with stakeholder analysis and feedback events.

Our team is responsible for the pesticide analysis of samples from soil, vegetation and insects collected along a gradient from the arable fields to the core of the conservation area. We use a multi-residue method that allows the quantitation of pesticides at trace levels. A selection of over 100 of the most commonly current used pesticides (CUPs) in German agriculture is included in the analysis. The results of this project part allow a first assessment of realistic pesticide exposure of insects in conservation areas situated in the agricultural landscapes. The data are representative of a nation-wide scale and different conventional cropping systems next to conservation areas from heathlands to xeric grasslands.

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