Massively parallel sequencing has opened up entirely new possibilities in the study of how ecosystems are structured and how they function as a whole. This project will harness the most recent advances in this field to chart insect biomes in unprecedented detail, enabling breakthrough insights into the composition, origins and ecological dynamics of insect faunas and their associated microbial communities. Insects comprise the bulk of the macroscopic diversity of the planet, and they play key roles in most terrestrial ecosystems.

The project will target the insect biomes of two countries of similar size but with entirely different geological and biological histories: Sweden and Madagascar. The Swedish insect biome is the result of post-glacial colonization, and is one of the best studied in the world with presumably 87 % of the species known. Madagascar is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, and most of its species have evolved in place. Only a tiny fraction of the insects are known, almost certainly less than 10 %. The researchers aim for a 12-month sampling program in both countries, followed by MPSbased molecular characterization of the insects and their associated microorganisms. This should result in a virtually complete species-level inventory of the insect biomes in both countries, with the spatial and temporal resolution to support powerful ecological analyses.

Specifically, the researchers will focus on four research topics where biomic data have the potential to shed new light, namely: (1) the taxonomic and biological composition; (2) the historical origins; (3) the ecological structure and function; and (4) the associated symbionts, parasites and pathogens of the insect biomes.

This will be one of the first largescale comparative biomics analyses undertaken anywhere on the planet, and the project data and material will be a treasure trove for ecologists and systematists studying Swedish and Malagasy ecosystems for years to come.