Within the framework of GGBC, the Kintrishi project is a first pilot project launched by the ISU-ZFMK collaborative team in April 2018. The project aims to investigate biodiversity in the Kintrishi Protected Areas located in south-western Georgia (N41.75, E42.03). The park was created in 1959 and currently encompasses over 13,000 hectares. Together with the adjacent Mtirala National Park, Kintrishi is the most humid area in the Caucasus region with around 3000 mm annual precipitation. It is a plio-pleistocene refugium featuring many relict and endemic animal and plant species. The park is stretched from 300 m up to 2500 m a.s.l. and includes pristine mountain humid forests and subalpine/alpine belts. Though the high biodiversity of Kintrishi was recognized early in the 20th century, the knowledge of most animal and plant taxa in Kintrishi and surroundings is still rudimentary.
The aim of the Kintrishi project is to investigate the biodiversity of the Kintrishi Protected Areas (i.e. species inventory) and to start compiling a Georgian reference database of DNA barcodes for selected taxa. In essence, the Kintrishi project consists of three subprojects:
1. Kintrishi transect
The aim of this subproject is to evaluate multi-taxon species diversity and community structure over an elevational gradient. In April of 2018 we set up Malaise traps on an elevational gradient in the Kintrishi gorge (three trap replicates at six elevational levels – 18 traps in total) and the traps were emptied every two weeks (field work is ongoing and supposed to finish in middle of November). Additionally, we also set up pitfall traps at each site (five traps per site) for non-flying and ground-dwelling invertebrates and collected eDNA in soil samples. Collected samples are then sorted and prepared for taxonomic research and DNA barcoding. Since the amount of collected material is very large, we are currently focusing on some selected groups of animals (several families of dipetrans/hymenopterans, spiders, molluscs, myriapods, pseudoscorpions, ground beetles and nematodes). Follow-up activities are related to taxonomic investigation and DNA barcoding of selected groups. Any researcher interested in collaborating is very welcome (please find contact details here).
2. Kintrishi BioBlitz
In July 2018, a mixed group of dozens of Georgian and German scientists and students visited the area to collect and identify specimens for DNA barcoding, in a so-called BioBlitz event, the first so far to take place in Georgia. Apart from the generic project funding by BMBF, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) Georgia kindly supported this event under the Integrated Biodiversity, South Caucasus programme, funded by BMZ.
We also want to thank the Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia and the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia for providing collecting permits.
3. Global Malaise Trap Program (GMP)
To collect even more biodiversity data for the Kintrishi National Park, we joined the Global Malaise Trap Program (GMP). In addition to the 18 Malaise traps running in the transect project, we set up another Malaise trap in Kintrishi reserve from which arthropods are collected weekly. After the collecting season 2018 ends, all samples will be sent to the Canadian Center for DNA Barcoding (CCDB) in Guelph, Ontario, where they will be sorted to morphospecies and barcoded.
Kintrishi project team
Björn Rulik (ZFMK), Levan Mumladze (ISU), Jonas Astrin (ZFMK), David Tarkhnishvili (ISU), Bernhard Misof (ZFMK), Giorgi Iankoshvili (ISU), Cort Anderson (ISU), Eka Arsenashvili (ISU), Giorgi Bakuradze (ISU), Giorgi Bananashvili (ISU), Giorgi Chaladze (ISU), Tinatin Chkhartishvili (ISU), Shota Japarashvili (ISU), Liza Karalashvili (ISU), Ameli Kirse (ZFMK), Revaz Kvaratskhelia (ISU), Natia Rtskhiladze (ISU), Nutsa Rtskhiladze (ISU), Alisa Sanakoeva (ISU), Anano Shubashishvili (ISU), Irina Tsereteli (ISU), Mari Tsulaia (ISU)
Together with the above-listed people, the following researchers participated in th BioBlitz:
Ani Bikashvili (ISU), Tim Böhnert (Uni. Bonn), Giorgi Epitashvili (ISU), Marianne Espeland (ZFMK), Matthias Geiger (ZFMK), Nils Hein (GBOL team), Bella Japoshvili (ISU), Hajo Krammer (ZFMK), Katharina Kurzrock (ZFMK), Ximo Mengual (ZFMK), Stefan Otto (independent researcher), André Reimann (GBOL team), Anke Schäfer (GBOL team), Jana Thormann (ZFMK), Sönke Twietmeyer (GBOL team), Thomas Wesener (ZFMK), Benedict Wipfler (ZFMK)