The major pathways for the spread of invasive alien terrestrial species (IATS) that cause environmental and economic damage are shipment of goods and movement of people. Therefore, movement of military vehicles and cargo during deployment and redeployment activities can potentially contribute to the spread of IATS, with implications for military readiness, environmental and human health, and financial impact. However, for many invasive species, especially small IATS (notably insects, spiders, and soil arthropods), early detection and community-wide surveillance is difficult, if not impossible. Traditional arthropod monitoring, as is done on many Department of Defense (DoD) lands, is extremely time-consuming because of the challenges of specimen sorting and identification. Targeted searches for specific species do work, but as the number of invasive species increases, this also becomes unwieldy. The objective of this project is to use next-generation DNA sequencing technologies and new sources of environmental DNA (eDNA), coupled with advances in data science, to develop a DNA-based approach that will greatly accelerate the process of monitoring and identification of arthropod IATS. The result will improve the efficacy of biosecurity efforts and provide more timely information for managers.
The project team plans to develop a biosecurity monitoring system that uses standardized field sampling and next generation DNA “barcoding” of size-sorted bulk samples to speed monitoring and identification. Research will also assess the extent to which new sources of eDNA can detect IATS when in low abundance and in new habitat types and the role of portable laboratory technology to make identifications in the field. To accelerate IATS identification and classification, the project team will use a common data framework to integrate existing, disparate and heterogeneous data (different data types and formats), including DNA sequences and species-specific information (e.g., geographic distribution, traits of invasiveness, climate niche). The project team will test the rapid monitoring approach in three different island chains in the Pacific that differ in habitat types and patterns of biodiversity and are associated with DoD installations and training (Hawaiian Islands, Mariana Islands, and Okinawa). These habitats are also island environments where the impact and threats of IATS tend to be particularly acute and hence can serve as model systems for global application. Conducting the work in three locations in different seasons and over multiple years will allow the project team to assess the generality, effectiveness, and repeatability of the approach. The project team will transfer knowledge to managers through workshops on site, covering topics of interpreting IATS lists and data, sampling eDNA, and using portable laboratory technology.
Early detection and surveillance of IATS will assist DoD operations by minimizing the environmental and financial impact of IATS on bases and surrounding habitats, as well as promoting readiness and reducing the time needed for inspections. This will be the first Pacific-wide effort to use next generation sequence data to identify and assess the distribution of IATS, which will add to genetic and taxonomic databases of invasive and native species, both regionally and globally. The new eDNA and computational approaches we will develop will provide knowledge on both the extent of IATS in biological communities and likely pathways of invasion. The data produced can be used by managers to improve base checklists of invasive alien species, to map current and likely future pathways of invasion, and to predict which species are likely to be invasive. This work will provide data that can be used by biodiversity scientists to determine ecosystem health, such as in assessing native pollinators and other beneficial species and the structure of food webs. Species lists, access to databases, and instructional materials will be available on-line so that others can use similar approaches at other locations.