The applicability of qPCR to quantify the occurrence of decomposers and pests in managed and abandoned alpine soils

Julia Seeber, Michael Steinwandter

Aim of the project is to develop a reliable, rapid and non-destructive molecular tool which will allow us to quantify the presence of two important groups of soil animals (decomposers and pests). Up to now this had to be done by taking destructive soil samples, extracting the soil animals by heat over a longer period of time, identifying them morphologically and counting their abundances. Furthermore, monitoring herbivores which function as agricultural pests is difficult and laborious, mostly due to the opaqueness of the soil habitat. The development of the qPCR assay will allow to determine the animals’ DNA copy numbers in a known amount of humus or soil material. By normalizing and validating the assay it might be possible to relate the copy numbers directly to the animals’ biomass. The next step will then be the screening of field samples to test the applicability of diagnostic PCR and qPCR in field studies.

Funding: Berglandwirtschaft (grant of the Mountain Agriculture Research Unit, University of Innsbruck), Nachwuchsförderung (young researcher grant, University of Innsbruck)

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