A key element to the first projects (e.g. Kintrishi transect) in GGBC is DNA barcoding – future projects will build on this infrastructure.
What is DNA barcoding?
DNA barcodes (see Wiki) are very short gene fragments which are used as unique DNA signatures. Based on these signature sequences, unknown individuals (animals, plants, fungi, microbes) can be assigned to species. Each species is characterized by a distinct barcode. Using DNA barcodes, challenging species identifications can be readily solved: barcoding opens up species-rich groups and cryptic species complexes to identification, and allows working on difficult developmental stages (spores, eggs, larvae) or tissue fragments (e.g. insect legs, plant roots, fungal hyphae or hair). Here are ten good reasons for DNA barcoding (pdf by CBOL).
An established DNA barcode reference database offers even non-specialists a rapid, reliable and cost-effective tool for species identification. Using DNA traces organisms leave in their environment, even water, soil or insect trap samples can be analyzed without sorting individuals and without actually using tissue samples.
Building the barcode reference database for the Caucasus
The first step in DNA barcoding projects is to build a reference database that associates the scientific species names with their signature DNA sequences. Building a barcode reference library is a laborious process. Individual specimens need to be collected (several per species) and carefully identified morphologically before their DNA sequence is deciphered and added to the database. Within GGBC, we are taking the first steps to compile a publicly accessible reference database for with species-specific DNA barcode sequences Georgia, aided by the experiences gained in the German Barcode of Life project. We hope that with additional partners, we will be able to expand this endeavor to further countries of the Caucasus region. DNA barcoding offers a very convenient means to catalog, understand and ultimately preserve the biological heritage of the Caucasus.