Diversity of Insects in Nature protected Areas (DINA)
Scientific research project on insect decline
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 and biocoenoses. 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 reduce pollination and seed dispersal of plants and therefore seriously affects the vegetation.
Long-term insect monitoring recently demonstrated a dramatic decline of insect populations within nature-protected areas in Germany. Losses of butterfly populations in other countries suggest that the insect decline is a European phenomenon, and the parallel decline of bird populations suggests that the phenomenon affects whole ecosystems.
This project aims at analysing insect biodiversity in 21 selected German nature reserves, in correlation with important environmental variables, identifying possible causes of its decline, exploring potentials of stakeholder participation for integrated, cross-sectoral decision-making and providing evidence-based policy recommendations for more effective biodiversity preservation. This is the first research project addressing these questions in Germany.
The legal and environmental policy framework of the proposed research project is the Biodiversity Convention (CBD 1992) and its numerous decisions concretizing research demands. At the national level, our project is based on the biodiversity strategies of the Federal Government (BMUB 2007), as well as on the Federal Nature Conservation Act and the Fauna-Flora Habitat Directive (FFH-RL).
In our joint research project “Diversity of Insects in Nature protected Areas (DINA), we aim at remedying existing deficits in applied biodiversity research. Our study will provide an enormous dataset of insect occurrence data, unprecedented in its completeness for flying insects. For this we use metabarcoding combined with Malaise trap sampling as a new instrument in the study of biodiversity and ecological processes. Our results will represent the most complete recording of alpha diversity of the species-richest animal group in Germany at several study sites.
To enable an evidence-based optimization of protected area planning, we will quantify insect diversity and the species composition at selected sites and relate it to floral and spatial characteristics of the nature-protected areas and ecotoxicological analytics. For the first time, we will include agricultural practices in and around nature-reserves in our investigation of the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation – the core function of protected areas.
Details of work packages
DINA Project coordination and governance structure
To govern the DINA project, the NABU (Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union) established a project coordination office for full integration of scientific and social lab results. Special care will be given to promote a transdisciplinary exchange of perspectives on insect biodiversity decline, ensure a broad participation of stakeholders as well as the scientific community, and provide government authorities with the possibility to adopt the scientific results from this project for policy making.
Prof. Dr. Gerlind Lehmann
Dr. Roland Mühlethaler
Referent für strategisches Prozessmanagement (DINA)
Biodiversity Monitoring of Insects - Citizen Science approach
Integral connected with the work of DINA is a citizen science approach. With its 700,000 members and supporters, NABU is the largest nature conservation association in Germany. In order to deepen the Citizen Scientist approach within DINA, volunteers will be engaged in running the Malaise traps located at 21 selected sampling sites. These volunteers are recruited through the networks of NABU and are equipped with the material needed and trained. Their integration will provide a regional support and the possibility to engage more people with “their” nature protected area. Thus the volunteers are involved to a high degree in the necessary data collection. At the same time, we want to train volunteers in insect protection and stakeholder management.
Prof. Dr. Gerlind Lehmann
Dr. Roland Mühlethaler
Referent für strategisches Prozessmanagement (DINA)
Spatial analysis of nature-protected areas and selection of study sites
The Leibniz Institute for Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER) is a spatial science research institution of the Leibniz Association. It develops scientific bases for the sustainable development of cities and regions in a national and international context. In addition to landscape change and management, resource efficiency of settlement structures and environmental risks in urban and regional development, the IOER is intensively involved in monitoring settlement and open space development. The focus is on automated survey, monitoring, analysis, visualisation and evaluation procedures for the spatial description of land use structures (settlement and open space), building stock and transport infrastructure and their development.
Within DINA, the IOER is responsible for the entire geodata collection and analysis. After collecting all relevant geodata for DINA, the nature reserves of Germany are analysed and evaluated. For the selection of suitable sites for the installation of the Malais traps, a land use classification, the calculation of landscape indicators within the nature reserves and in their surroundings and the compilation of descriptive statistics are initially carried out. At a later stage, spatial GIS-based analysis of all nature reserves in Germany will be carried out, including multi-criteria descriptions of these areas. This analysis will be used to investigate the relationship between the insect population, protected area characteristics and the intensity of agricultural use in the surrounding area.
Finally, all relevant DINA results of the 21 case study areas will be visualized in detail in an internet-based geodata platform including public access to download the data.
Dr.-Ing. Gotthard Meinel
Leibniz-Institut für ökologische Raumentwicklung, e.V. (IÖR)
Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER)
Weberplatz 1, 01217 Dresden, Germany
Tel: +49-351-4679-254 Fax: +49-351-4679-212
Biodiversity data of flight-active insects from Malaise traps
The methodological focus of the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) is the further development of metabarcoding in order to provide complete evidence of the species spectrum of flight-active insects and plant fragments (e.g. pollen) adhering to them.
Since the majority of the German insect diversity (>30,000 species) consists of flight-active species (over 90% of the species), proven, standardized Malaise traps of the Entomological Society Krefeld are used to collect the samples. In order to investigate whether the diversity of flying insects within a protected area changes along a gradient between the area of use (e.g. agricultural land) and the protected area, the following (insect-related) parameters are collected for each sample:
- The entire species spectrum in the Malaise trap samples is recorded via metabarcoding and evaluated according to taxonomic and functional aspects.
- The project partner Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (Botany) identifies potential food plants of insects and the diversity of approached flowering plants by metabarcoding the pollen introduced by insects into the Malaise traps.
The preserved diversity patterns of the insects will be used to assess the effectiveness of protected areas and to develop spatial planning recommendations for their improvement. Furthermore, our investigations will allow a more precise assessment of the occurrence of protected species, species of responsibility, and characteristic species of the habitat types investigated and, if necessary, identify new indicator species for habitat types. Some of the detected species will still be listed as (M)OTUs - (molecular) Operational Taxonomic Units - in the tables, which cannot yet be named, as no corresponding reference is available in the databases. As a rule, however, these units can be assigned to a genus and family, from which functional characteristics of the species communities can be derived. The spatial & temporal distribution of the (M)OTUs can be investigated and compared like named species. In the course of the project, numerous (M)OTUs can be named by regular comparisons with the growing reference databases.
The concrete work steps at the ZFMK include the following steps after delivery of the samples by the Entomological Society Krefeld:
- Sizing of one half of each Malaise trap sample in three to five classes including the development of routines.
- Homogenization of each size class to increase the DNA yield.
- DNA extraction with upscaling to plate scale (96 samples simultaneously).
- PCR amplification with upscaling to plate scale (96 samples simultaneously).
- Sequencing of PCR products by an external service provider.
- Analysis of metabarcoding data and creation of species & OTU tables.
- Transfer of the data to the DINA coordination.
- Integration of evidence into the entomological collections.
Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK)
Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere
Adenauerallee 160, D-53113 Bonn, Germany
Prof. Dr. J. Wolfgang Wägele, Sprecher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr. Livia Schäffler, Leitung (email@example.com)
Dr. Matthias F. Geiger, Koordination (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr. Sarah Bourlat, PI Metabarcoding (email@example.com)
n.n. PostDoc, Koordination & Metabarcoding
n.n. Technische Assistenz, Labor
Biodiversity Monitoring - Malaise trap transects
This work package will assess insect biodiversity via standardized trapping along transects in regular intervals at 21 nature protected areas. The methodology is based on the well established and published standards by the EVK. The EVK is the only institution which is using Malaise traps similar to the one used by Townes (1972) in a particularly standardised sampling design for decades to investigate local insect diversity and other related research topics. Species identification and measurment of abundances of selected insect taxa will provide the basis for the interpretation of the results in comparison to results from metabarcoding and spatial distribution patterns as well as data from adjacent land use and chemical pollution. These tasks can only be fulfilled by the participation of a higher amount of qualified entomologists. The primary tasks of the EVK within DINA are:
- Assistance in preselection and final selection of study sites with help of aerial photographs made by video drones.
- Setup and installation of Malaise traps at 21 study sites (each locality consists of 5 traps along a transect).
- Documentation of the study areas according to the standard established by the EVK.
- Phytosociological records and documentation of vegetation and habitats with help of aerial photographies.
- Weight measurments of the total wet biomass of each sample and further processing of the sample liquids for studies on plant fragments and pollen.
- Sorting, taxa identification and numbering of selected taxa of the most species-rich insect orders in Germany, i.e. Hymenoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera and Lepidoptera.. Since metabarcoding cannot be used for reliable estimation of taxon-specific abundances, insect tables of the orders Hymenoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera and Lepidoptera are required for morphological identification and subsequent manual counting to supplement the results obtained by metabarcoding. The abundances are determined for all transects using summer samples with peak biomass. This approach provides important insights into the possibility of obtaining information on relative species abundances and evaluating this, including data from metabarcoding.
- Insects identified in this context will also be used to complete the GBOL reference database. Since selected families of the megadiverse insect orders Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera and Diptera are manually identified by EVK specialists, we expect many species that will complement the global DNA barcode reference libraries in the work process.
- The study will provide an enormous data volume on flight active insect species by Malaise traps of selected sites. The combination of metabarcoding and selective abundance evaluations will provide a hitherto unavailable basis for assessing the biodiversity of insect species in nature reserves in Germany.
- Participation in the evaluation of the results and the synthesis
Entomologischer Verein Krefeld
Dr. Martin Sorg
Monitoring of plant diversity in nature proteced areas with regard to seasonal plant-insect interactions
In this part of the project, plant traces on insects will be detected and identified at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen (Systematic Botany) using metabarcoding methods. This enables us to gain insights into which food plants are used by insects at which time of the year. This serves to provide management recommendations for sustainable insect protection. The samples are taken with help of Malaise traps situated in 21 different nature reserves in Germany. A total of 105 Malaise traps are sampled over a period of two years, and the sample containers are changed every two weeks. The plant residuals in the containers are plotted on filter paper using vacuum filtration. The filter paper will be devided into four parts, three replicas are processed for metabarcoding, one serves as voucher and control sample. The outcome will result in a plant taxa list. Phytosociological studies and relevé will be carried out in the direct vicinity of the Malaise traps. Furthermore, relevé will provide information on the spatial activities of insects if certain plants do not occur in spatial proximity to the traps but are further away from them. This simultaneous documentation of phenological aspects allows analyses of which plants bloom at a certain time, or are actually visited by the insects respectively.
The outcomes will provide plant species lists of all pollen and plant mixtures for each Malaise trap. The plant residuals in Malaise traps can either be due to excretions of insect or due to to flower visits, e.g. pollen on the body of the insects. The accompanying vegetation surveys and phytosociological investigations can also show what potential resources for the insects are available. This information is important because the availability of resources rarely coincides with the frequency of insects and usually supports common insect species, but not rare specialists. We also hope that the results will allow conclusions to be drawn about the spatial activities of insects when certain plants do not occur in close proximity to the traps. So far, very little is known about insect flight distances for plant and flower visits.
Institut für Botanik, Abt. Spezielle Botanik
IFZ, Spezielle Botanik
Multi-residue pesticide analysis of soil, vegetation, water, and insect matrices along transects
The University Koblenz-Landau contributes residue analyses of plant protection product in environmental matrices soil, vegetation, water and insects. For a period of 2 years approximately 1000 environmental samples from 21 nature reserve areas and adjacent agricultural field and field margins will be analyzed. The work package provides information on the current status of pollution of the environment with plant protection products.
Because of the broad spectrum toxicity of some of the plant protection products and their widespread use in agriculture, contamination of environmental matrices is a critical issue, since many functional groups of insects use them as an essential resource. Therefore, the occurrence of plant protection products and their distribution among the environmental matrices may provide a causal link between the contamination and the status of the local insect abundance / diversity. The massive decline of insects currently shown for Germany (70 – 75% biomass decline for 1989 – 2013) is possibly associated with the use of plant protection products in agriculture. Another recent studies have shown the decline of insect populations in cultivated landscapes and some nature reserve areas. However, there is a lack of field studies that have extensively investigated the impact of plant protection products on insect diversity / biomass.
For the first time, information on the current pollution of the environmental matrices essential to insects and the status of the local insect abundance / diversity will be available for 21 nature reserve areas in Germany. The results of this work package will allow for drawing conclusions about the acute toxicity, sublethal impacts of chronic exposure on insects using effective toxicity values known for a range of non-target insects from literature and approval documents.
University of Koblenz-Landau
Dr. Carsten Brühl
Section Leader Community Ecology and Ecotoxicology
Dipl.-Umw. Nikita Bakanov
Institute for Environmental Sciences
Team: Ecosystem Resilience
Biomonitoring of pesticide pollution in the air
So far, there are only a few environmental-chemical studies that deal with the pesticide load in nature conservation areas caused by conventional farming methods. First results of studies on the coexistence of conventional and organic farms in Brandenburg showed that, in addition to direct contamination by drift from conventionally cultivated neighbouring fields, long-distance transport of pesticides also takes place.
This work package aims at a spatial representative assessment of air pollution loads within the 21 selected nature reserves as well as in the surrounding agricultural areas. Standardized technique of bark biomonitoring and effective multi-point data collection will be applied to monitor the aerial input of a broad range of pesticides (>500 PSM) and more than 55 elements. This allows a fingerprinting of relevant pollution impacts by agriculture and other anthropogenic and natural pollution sources, e.g. N, P and other nutrients indicating the intensity of agriculture and fertilization at the sites, other elements like toxic heavy metals, S, lanthanides, serving to differentiate the influence of other industrial emission sources such as combustion, acid rain, traffic etc.
Bark biomonitoring is a standardized method to measure air pollution loads integrating over greater time spans in a comparable way. To integrate volatile as well as semi-volatile and non-volatile contaminants, yearly sub-samples will be taken at the end of each season and combined to one integrated sample. Beside of direct and immediate effects, also indirect and time-delayed effects of pollution exposure to insect populations are to be regarded, too. The results of the bark biomonitoring on long-term pollution are valuable to integrate these aspects in the analysis and final assessment.
Results will provide data on the complexity of pollution loads at the sites in a comparable way, allowing an empirical data-based assessment of pollution impacts for the 21 nature reserves and the surrounding landscape and classification in the three exposure categories. Hereby the standardized method enables the assessment in relation to other sites in Germany in form of the statistical data distribution being defined in previous projects. Furthermore, data are valuable for further research such as the definition of representative pollution cocktails to be used in standardized laboratory toxicity tests.
TIEM - Integrierte Umweltüberwachung
Dipl.-Forstwirt Ulrich Schlechtriemen
PD Dr. Werner Kratz an der FU Berlin, Institut für Biologie & NABU Brandenburg & NABU Deutschland Bundesfachausschuss Umweltchemie und Ökotoxikologie
Institutional framework and stakeholder analysis
The IZNE strives to identify all relevant stakeholder groups within the 21 project areas as well as countrywide, obtain a deep understanding of their issues on the use of natural resources within the protected areas and potential solutions in terms of biodiversity conservation. Besides, this links the spatial analysis of the protected areas to the Stakeholder and Social Labs. Additionally, the results will be jointly prepared with project partners for external use. The basis of our work is qualitative expert interviews within the project areas and a subsequent quantitative survey on a much broader basis. Gained insights will be used for the participative development of guidelines, which encompass the knowledge relevant for stakeholder analysis and management with regard to biodiversity issues and which are suitable for further protected areas in Germany.
IZNE – Internationales Zentrum für Nachhaltige Entwicklung
Prof. Dr. Wiltrud Terlau, Projektleitung (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nicolas Fuchshofen, wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter (email@example.com)
Angela Turck, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Raum G 033
53757 Sankt Augustin
Tel. +49 2241 865 - 9717
Fax +49 2241 865 - 8410
Coping with conflicts through mutual learning
Results from biodiversity monitoring and pollutant analyses in DINA should lead to concrete recommendations for the biodiversity conservation for politics, agriculture and local authorities. In order to identify possible conflicts from the outset, conceivable solutions will be developed in dialogue between the relevant actors from land use, administration, nature conservation and landowners. Such dialogue processes are necessary to ensure that measures to protect biodiversity do not fail because of differences and conflicting objectives.
The "Social Labs" conceived by ISOE facilitate this dialogue, which contributes to a better understanding of conflicts and aims to find joint, robust solutions. The Social Labs are conducted as case studies at three out of the 21 study sites. Over a period of two years, a series of dialogue workshops will take place at each of these locations. The continuous exchange serves both the networking between the actors and the consensus finding for goals and measures for an integrated nature conservation. To this end, ISOE draws on its experience in transdisciplinary research. In particular, the tried and tested format of stakeholder dialogues, integrative methods for knowledge generation, discourse field analyses and business games serve as method kits for the Social Labs.
Projektteam am ISOE
Am ISOE arbeiten Mitarbeiter*innen aus dem Forschungsfeld Transdisziplinäre Methoden und Konzepte und dem Forschungsfeld Biodiversität und Bevölkerung in DINA mit:
Dr. Alexandra Lux
Dr. Florian D. Schneider
Dr. Marion Mehring
PD Dr. Diana Hummel
ISOE – Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Hamburger Allee 45
60486 Frankfurt am Main
Dr. Alexandra Lux
+49 69 7076919-27
Dr. Florian Schneider
+49 69 7076919-71
The project partners
Selected further information (in German)