JSPS Core to Core  FY2020 - 2023
Tropical Biosphere Research Center,  University of the Ryukyus

Global analyses of mangrove ecosystem by eDNA metabarcoding


Project overview

Tropical Biosphere Research Center (TBRC),  University of the Ryukyus, is one of the Joint Usage / Research Centers selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), Japan. Located in the Japanese subtropical zone, TBRC aims to contribute to tropical and subtropical researches in Japan and overseas countries. ​TBRC possess a research section, "mangrove science," that is the only research organization in Japan specialized in studying mangrove. The mangrove studies of TBRC are conducted, especially at Iriomote Station located adjacent to the mangrove forests. Four faculty members and other staff work actively on the remote but nature-rich island.

In 2020, TBRC launched a new project, "Formation of a Global Network to study mangrove ecosystem by eDNA metabarcoding," by obtaining support from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Core-to-Core Program, B. Asia - Africa Platform. In this 3-year project (2020 - 2022), TBRC aims to build an international research hub with overseas core institutions in Asia and Africa and cooperative organizations in the New World (Project HP: http://c2c.mangroves.info). ​Iriomote Station plays a central role in conducting research activities of the Core-to-Core program to contribute to the conservation of world mangroves through eDNA metabarcoding, in collaboration with overseas core institutions.

eDNA metabarcoding is a relatively new method in mangrove science. The methods enable us to acquire the species diversity of fish, macrobenthos, and other organisms in mangrove ecosystems quickly and extensively. There are various challenges and questions to use the eDNA methodology in mangroves. In collaboration with core research institutes in 12 countries, we try to establish an international research network in these three years and form the foundation to study fish and macrobenthos diversity in mangroves on a global scale.

Project Plan

​ In this research project, our ultimate goal is to establish the research foundation for DNA metabarcoding to study mangrove ecosystems worldwide. We expect to contribute to the conservation of global mangroves by providing big data of biodiversity through DNA metabarcoding. As the aim of JSPS Core-to-Core programs is (i) the formation of high-potential research hubs, (ii) the construction of sustainable collaborative relationships with overseas core institutions, with (iii) fostering young researchers, we will perform research exchange programs involving seminars, training course, and research collaboration. We plan to hold international workshops at least twice in Japan and twice in other countries. We also have research training courses for eDNA research in Japan and other countries in conjunction with the seminars. We involve younger researchers from their home countries and help them perform DNA metabarcoding studies in mangroves.

To perform water sampling and DNA metabarcoding in the overseas core institutions, we invite younger researchers to Japan and hold seminars and training courses. By obtaining cooperation from the eDNA Society, we provide the Society’s manual for eDNA experiments to participants and use it as a text in the training course. We collect water samples from member countries and analyze them in the training course. The obtained metabarcoding data will be the preliminary basis for the global analyses.

The development of a reference database is essential for DNA metabarcoding studies. We encourage and help overseas core institutions to start their research projects in their countries, obtaining research grants. Integrating the data accumulated in each country, we can finally establish a database for the global study. Through the research activities, we expect to have active research exchange among participant countries. Japan will play a central role in keeping the research network.