Environmental DNA and participatory science to map groundwater fauna

Figure 1 from https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-44908-8

In our most recent study, published in Scientific Reports (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-44908-8), we used participatory science and environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding to investigate groundwater amphipods and to capture a broader picture of the groundwater community, including microorganisms. Combining both methods revealed co-occurring amphipod species and their correlation with overall groundwater biodiversity, enhancing our understanding of subterranean ecosystems. In conclusion, we propose two novel methods for studying groundwater organisms, which can be applied independently or, more effectively, in combination. These approaches offer valuable tools for addressing uncharted aspects of subterranean biology.

Dispersal and connectivity as key factors shaping the genetic diversity of Gammarus fossarum

The studied area and sites with Gammarus fossarum. Figure S1 from the publication. Geodata source: Federal Office of Topography & Federal Office for the Environment.

In our recently published study in Molecular Ecology, Emanuel A. Fronhofer, Florian Altermatt, and me analyzed empirically observed genetic diversity of Gammarus fossarum metapopulations across the Rhine drainage area within Switzerland. We used microsatellite data and stochastic simulations to study the role of dispersal behaviour on observed genetic diversity. Allelic richness and observed heterozygosity were higher in more central nodes, unlike expected heterozygosity. Stochastic simulations suggest upstream movement probability and dispersal rate to be key factors explaining this finding. The study is open access. A huge thank you to Anja Westram and Jukka Jokela for support early on during analysis and providing data.

New groundwater amphipod discovered

Niphargus arolaensis, a newly described groundwater amphipod from Switzerland

Thanks to the collaboration with many water well managers, Nicole Bongni was able to describe a previously undocumented biological diversity in groundwater in her master’s thesis. The focus was on amphipods, in particular the genus Niphargus. Among the discoveries was a completely new species, which we have now described scientifically in Subterranean Biology. The name of the new species: Niphargus arolaensis, the Aare groundwater amphipod. The name is derived from the fact that we have only been able to detect the species at three sites in the Aare River basin. This research shows that we still understand the groundwater habitat far too poorly and therefore cannot protect it adequately. Thanks to the project AmphiWell we can continue basic research on this topic.

Two new Niphargus species

With our new publication in ZooKeys, the number of amphipod species from Switzerland has risen again. The paper contains two new species (Niphargus luchoffmanni sp. n. and Niphargus tonywhitteni sp. n.), with drawings and descriptions. Additionally, the paper provides a DELTA (DEscription Language for TAxonomy) file and BOLD barcodes, allowing everyone the identification of niphargids based on various morphological and molecular characters.

Two new Niphargus species from Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

Both species are geographically restricted (Austria, Germany, Switzerland), with one (N. luchoffmanni) being endemic to the Swiss alps. The species were named after Hans Lukas “Luc” Hoffmann (1923–2016), naturalist and ecologists, founder of the MAVA foundation and co-founder of the World Wild Fund for NAture (WWF), and after Tony Whitten (1953–2017), who devoted his life to nature conservation including conserving life in caves, also being a co-chair of the Cave Invertebrate Specialist Group at IUCN.

With this publication, the next step towards the monography about Swiss amphipods is done. The book should be available by the end of the year via CSCF. This homepage will keep you updated. Or contact me if you want to be informed about the release of the Fauna Helvetica monograph.