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Leasi, Francesca; Sevigny, Joseph L.; Laflamme, Eric M.; Artois, Tom; Curini-Galletti, Marco; Navarrete, Alberto de Jesus; Di Domenico, Maikon; Götz, Freya; Hall, Jeffrey A.; Hochberg, Rick; Jörger, Katharina M.; Jondelius, Uif; Todaro, M. Antonio; Wirshing, Herman H.; Norenburg, Jon L. and Thomas, W. Kelley (2018): Biodiversity estimates and ecological interpretations of meiofaunal communities are biased by the taxonomic approach. In: Communications Biology, Vol. 1, 112

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Accurate assessments of biodiversity are crucial to advising ecosystem-monitoring programs and understanding ecosystem function. Nevertheless, a standard operating procedure to assess biodiversity accurately and consistently has not been established. This is especially true for meiofauna, a diverse community (>20 phyla) of small benthic invertebrates that have fundamental ecological roles. Recent studies show that metabarcoding is a cost-effective and time-effective method to estimate meiofauna biodiversity, in contrast to morphological-based taxonomy. Here, we compare biodiversity assessments of a diverse meiofaunal community derived by applying multiple taxonomic methods based on comparative morphology, molecular phylogenetic analysis, DNA barcoding of individual specimens, and metabarcoding of environmental DNA. We show that biodiversity estimates are strongly biased across taxonomic methods and phyla. Such biases affect understanding of community structures and ecological interpretations. This study supports the urgency of improving aspects of environmental high-throughput sequencing and the value of taxonomists in correctly understanding biodiversity estimates.

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