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Evaluating restoration trajectories using DNA metabarcoding of invertebrates and their associated plant communities
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  • Mieke van der Heyde,
  • Michael Bunce,
  • Kingsley Dixon,
  • Kristen Fernandes,
  • Jonathan Majer,
  • Grant Wardell-Johnson,
  • Nicole White,
  • Paul Nevill
Mieke van der Heyde
Curtin University Bentley Campus
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Michael Bunce
Curtin University Bentley Campus
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Kingsley Dixon
Curtin University Bentley Campus
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Kristen Fernandes
Curtin University Bentley Campus
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Jonathan Majer
Curtin University Bentley Campus
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Grant Wardell-Johnson
Curtin University Bentley Campus
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Nicole White
Curtin University Bentley Campus
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Paul Nevill
Curtin University Bentley Campus
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Abstract

Invertebrate communities provide many critical ecosystem functions (e.g. pollination, decomposition, herbivory and soil formation), and have been identified as indicators of ecological restoration. Unfortunately, invertebrates are often overlooked in restoration monitoring because they are time-consuming to survey, often require rare taxonomic expertise, and there are many undescribed species. DNA metabarcoding is a tool to rapidly survey invertebrates and can also provide information about plants with which those invertebrates are interacting. Here we evaluate how invertebrate communities may be used to determine ecosystem trajectories during restoration. We collected ground-dwelling and airborne invertebrates across chronosequences of mine-site restoration in three ecologically different locations in Western Australia, and identified invertebrate and plant communities using DNA metabarcoding. Ground-dwelling invertebrates showed the clearest restoration signals, with communities becoming more similar to reference communities over time. These patterns were weaker in airborne invertebrates, which have higher dispersal abilities and therefore less local fidelity to environmental conditions. Invertebrate community recovery was most evident in ecosystems with relatively stable climax communities, while the trajectory in the Pilbara, with its harsh climate and unpredictable monsoonal flooding, was unclear. Plant assay results indicate invertebrates are foraging locally, providing data about interactions between invertebrates and their environment. Thus, we show how DNA metabarcoding of invertebrate communities can be used to evaluate likely trajectories for restoration. Testing and incorporating new monitoring techniques such as DNA metabarcoding is critical to improving restoration outcomes, and is now particularly salient given the ambitious global restoration targets associated with the UN decade on Ecosystem Restoration.