EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Multi-taxa eDNA metabarcoding to monitor the degradation and restoration of belowground biota in agricultural soils

Julian Donald1, Jane Wills1, Regan Early1, Jerome Chave2, Amaia Iribar2, Jerome Murienne2, Lucie Zinger3, and Mailyn Gonzales4
Julian Donald et al.
  • 1University of Exeter, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (
  • 2Evolution et Diversité Biologique (EDB UMR 5174), Université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier, CNRS, IRD - Toulouse, France
  • 3Institut de Biologie de l’ENS (IBENS), Département de Biologie, École Normale Supérieure, CNRS, INSERM, Université PSL, 75005 Paris, France
  • 4Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, Bogotá, Colombia

Land use change drives shifts in the taxonomic and functional diversity of soil organisms. Soil biota response will depend on both local scale agricultural management, and regional scale environmental conditions, with the diverse pool of soil taxa unlikely to respond in a uniform manner. To monitor the effect of land management and potential restoration efforts, we require techniques which can be deployed at various spatial scales, and which account for the high diversity of these communities. In this presentation, we describe the role of eDNA metabarcoding targeting a broad range of taxa to detect and parameterise these responses. We present the results of studies of habitat conversion of humid and dry forests in French Guiana and Colombia respectively, before detailing how the method will be used to monitor agricultural pasture in the UK undergoing conversion to “regenerative” management. In these studies, we combine measures of alpha and beta diversity to account for shifts in species abundance dependent on habitat management, and assignment of functional groups to infer shifts in soil biota functioning.  Overall, we find that results track expected shifts in biota, for example a replacement of a broad diversity of plant eDNA to a community signal largely dominated by grasses. Agricultural soils are characterised by a greater proportion of bacteria and protists associated with the cycling of labile nitrogen. We conclude by pointing to the weaknesses of the method, and highlighting the importance of complimentary methods in spite of fruitful deployment across varied habitats.

How to cite: Donald, J., Wills, J., Early, R., Chave, J., Iribar, A., Murienne, J., Zinger, L., and Gonzales, M.: Multi-taxa eDNA metabarcoding to monitor the degradation and restoration of belowground biota in agricultural soils, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-786,, 2022.