Broad-scale monitoring of arthropods is often carried out with passive traps (e.g., Malaise traps) that can collect thousands of specimens per sample. The identification of individual specimens requires time and taxonomic expertise, limiting the geographical and temporal scale of research and monitoring studies. DNA metabarcoding of bulk-sample homogenates has been found to be faster, efficient and reliable, but the destruction of samples prevents a posteriori validation of species occurrences and relative abundances. Non-destructive metabarcoding of DNA extracted from collection medium has been applied in a limited number of studies, but further tests of efficiency are required with different trap types and collection media to assess the consistency of the method.
We quantified the detection rate of arthropod species when applying non-destructive DNA metabarcoding with a short (127-bp) fragment of mitochondrial COI on two combinations of passive traps and collection media: (1) water with monopropylene glycol (H2O–MPG) used in window-flight traps (WFT, 53 in total); (2) ethanol with monopropylene glycol (EtOH–MPG) used in Malaise traps (MT, 27 in total). We then compared our results with those obtained for the same samples using morphological identification (for WFTs) or destructive metabarcoding of bulk homogenate (for MTs). This comparison was applied as part of a larger study of arthropod species richness in silver fir (Abies alba Mill., 1759) stands across a range of climate-induced tree dieback levels and forest management strategies.
Of the 53 H2O-MPG samples from WFTs, 16 produced no metabarcoding results, while the remaining 37 samples yielded 77 arthropod MOTUs in total, of which none matched any of the 343 beetle species morphologically identified from the same traps. Metabarcoding of 26 EtOH–MPG samples from MTs detected more arthropod MOTUs (233) than destructive metabarcoding of homogenate (146 MOTUs, 8 orders), of which 71 were shared MOTUs, though MOTU richness per trap was similar between treatments. While we acknowledge the failure of metabarcoding from WFT-derived collection medium (H2O–MPG), the treatment of EtOH-based Malaise trapping medium remains promising. We conclude however that DNA metabarcoding from collection medium still requires further methodological developments and cannot replace homogenate metabarcoding as an approach for arthropod monitoring. It can be used nonetheless as a complementary treatment when enhancing the detection of soft-bodied arthropods like spiders and Diptera.