Moving eDNA surveys onto land: strategies for active eDNA aggregation to detect invasive forest insects.
The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys to monitor terrestrial species has been relatively limited, with successful implementations still confined to sampling DNA from natural or artificial water bodies and soil. Sampling water for eDNA depends on proximity to or availability of water, whereas eDNA from soil is limited in its spatial scale due to the large quantities necessary for processing and difficulty in doing so. These challenges limit the widespread use of eDNA in several systems, such as surveying forests for invasive insects. We developed two new eDNA aggregation approaches that overcome the challenges of above-ground terrestrial sampling and eliminate the dependency on creating or utilizing pre-existing water bodies to conduct eDNA sampling. The first, spray aggregation, uses spray action to remove eDNA from surface substrates and was developed for shrubs and other understorey vegetation, while the second, tree rolling, uses physical transfer via a roller to remove eDNA from the surface of tree trunks and large branches. We tested these approaches by surveying for spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, a recent invasive pest of northeastern USA that is considered a significant ecological and economic threat to forests and agriculture. We found that our terrestrial eDNA surveys matched visual surveys, but also detected L. delicatula presence ahead of visual surveys, indicating increased sensitivity of terrestrial eDNA surveys over currently used methodology. The terrestrial eDNA approaches we describe can be adapted for use in surveying a variety of forest insects and represent a novel strategy for surveying terrestrial biodiversity.