Abundance estimation with DNA metabarcoding – recent advancements for terrestrial arthropods
Biodiversity is declining at alarming rates worldwide and large-scale monitoring is urgently needed to understand changes and their drivers. While classical taxonomic identification of species is time and labour intensive, the combination with DNA-based methods could upscale monitoring activities to achieve larger spatial coverage and increased sampling effort. However, challenges remain for DNA-based methods when the number of individuals per species and/or biomass estimates are required. Several methodological advancements exist to improve the potential of DNA metabarcoding for abundance analysis, which however need further evaluation. Here, we discuss laboratory, as well as some bioinformatic adjustments to DNA metabarcoding workflows regarding their potential to achieve species abundance estimation from arthropod community samples. Our review includes pre-laboratory processing methods such as specimen photography, laboratory methods such as the use of spike-in DNA as an internal standard and bioinformatic advancements like correction factors. We conclude that specimen photography coupled with DNA metabarcoding currently promises the greatest potential to achieve estimates of the number of individuals per species and biomass estimates, but that approaches such as spike-ins and correction factors are promising methods to pursue further.