2019-2021: DNA barcode reference library as a tool for sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems in the highly threatened Lake Skadar Basin
Faculty of Science and Mathematics, University of Montenegro
Faculty of Metallurgy and Technology, University of Montenegro
Coordinator: Prof dr Vladimir Pešić
Project budgete: 94752.67 €
The main and novel goal of the project is to build DNA reference library and provide an insight in the biogeographic affinities for the selected model freshwater organisms inhabiting the Lake Skadar, its basin and associated spring systems, in order to provide a handy system for bioassessment, biomonitoring and ecological risk assessment of the critically endangered water resources.
The goal will be fulfilled by 1) revealing, with modern integrative methodology the actual level of diversity and endemism in the local fauna; 2) exploring the population molecular diversity and structure of the local model taxa in order to define their conservation status and conservation management units; 3) estimating the uniqueness level of the local model taxa by studying their phylogenetic/biogeographic relationships with fauna of the other karst poljes in the Dinaric region, The model organisms will be several taxa of freshwater macroinvertebrates used in ecosystem assessments, i.e. aquatic snails (Gastropoda), leeches (Hirudinea), water mites (Hydrachnidia and Halacaroidea), malacostracan crustaceans: gammarid amphipods, asellid isopods, caridean shrimp, and mysids.
The origin of the fauna of Lake Skadar basin is virtually unexplored. The main hypotheses formulated recently by Grabowski et al. (2018), that it could have been colonized either by a set of widespread lineages with high dispersal abilities inhabiting lacustrine habitats all over Balkans, or that it was colonized mainly from the small local water bodies associated with limnocrene springs or marshlands”. In addition, the fauna associated with local springs was studied almost exclusively at the morphological level and virtually nothing is known about its molecular diversity or phylogenetic/biogeographical affinities. We may only hypothesize whether it developed in long isolation or is closely related to that of other spring systems in the Balkan area.
Given that the Balkan Peninsula is recognized as one of the main diversity and endemism hots-posts in Europe and worldwide, achieving the project goals and verifying the hypotheses will greatly increase our knowledge upon origins, formation and early diversification of inland water fauna. Importantly, freshwater ecosystem and resources in the area are highly limited and critically endangered by increasing anthropogenic pressure. Thus, particular attention will be paid to understanding the isolation vs. connectivity patterns of the studied springs as well to the basic causes and mechanisms of colonization of these highly threatened habitats – problems that remain insufficiently studied and poorly understood.
Finally, construction of the DNA barcode reference library will provide a possibility for employing cost-effective methods such as DNA metabarcoding and, in perspective, ecologically harmless eDNA sampling in bioassessment and biomonitoring of the local freshwater ecosystems.