4 April 2013
Biodiversity surveys have long depended on traditional methods of taxonomy to inform sampling protocols and to determine when a representative sample of a given species pool of interest has been obtained. Questions remain as to how to design appropriate sampling efforts to accurately estimate total biodiversity. Here we consider the biodiversity of freshwater ostracods (crustacean class Ostracoda) from the region of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Through an analysis of observed species richness and complementarity, accumulation curves, and richness estimators, we conduct an a posteriori analysis of five bioblitz-style collection strategies that differed in terms of total duration, number of sites, protocol flexibility to heterogeneous habitats, sorting of specimens for analysis, and primary purpose of collection. We used DNA barcoding to group specimens into molecular operational taxonomic units for comparison.
Forty-eight provisional species were identified through genetic divergences, up from the 30 species previously known and documented in literature from the Churchill region. We found differential sampling efficiency among the five strategies, with liberal sorting of specimens for molecular analysis, protocol flexibility (and particularly a focus on covering diverse microhabitats), and a taxon-specific focus to collection having strong influences on garnering more accurate species richness estimates.
Our findings have implications for the successful design of future biodiversity surveys and citizen-science collection projects, which are becoming increasingly popular and have been shown to produce reliable results for a variety of taxa despite relying on largely untrained collectors. We propose that efficiency of biodiversity surveys can be increased by non-experts deliberately selecting diverse microhabitats; by conducting two rounds of molecular analysis, with the numbers of samples processed during round two informed by the singleton prevalence during round one; and by having sub-teams (even if all non-experts) focus on select taxa. Our study also provides new insights into subarctic diversity of freshwater Ostracoda and contributes to the broader “Barcoding Biotas” campaign at Churchill. Finally, we comment on the associated implications and future research directions for community ecology analyses and biodiversity surveys through DNA barcoding, which we show here to be an efficient technique enabling rapid biodiversity quantification in understudied taxa.