Quantifying marine biodiversity using environmental DNA
We have developed an innovative way to detect species in the sea using environmental DNA (eDNA) extracted from water samples.
Project leader: Michael Knapp, University of Otago
Duration: October 2016 – June 2019
Measuring whether species are present in a region is important for developing efficient, ecosystem-based management of marine resources. Current methods to measure biodiversity are costly, labour-intensive, and rely on indicator species or sites. Consequently, they don’t always capture the complexity of marine ecosystems and their usefulness is limited.
We have established and tested an innovative, high-throughput and cost-efficient way to quantify marine biodiversity using eDNA extracted from marine water samples. Our results show the power of this new tool. We were able to identify more groups of organisms than traditional monitoring methods at the same sites, and our data is highly habitat-specific.
Our study highlights the limitations of both traditional and eDNA monitoring. Traditional surveys are more likely to miss cryptic or rare organisms while eDNA data relies on genetic data available in reference databases. At this stage, we recommend the best way to measure marine biodiversity is to combine traditional and eDNA monitoring approaches.
To make our monitoring system user-friendly, we have established a process where the eDNA sequence data is translated into a list of the types of organisms present in a given seawater sample.
Our new approach significantly reduces the cost of marine biomonitoring. It may be of interest to a range of users.
Gert-Jan Jeunen, Michael Knapp, Hamish G.Spencer, Miles D. Lamare, Helen R.Taylor, Michael Sta, Michael Bunce, Neil J Gemmell "Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding reveals strong discrimination among diverse marine habitats connected by water movement" First published 21 December 2018, available from Wiley Online Library Ref doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.12982
Latest news and updates
We are seeking a Deputy Director Māori for Ko Ngā Moana Whakauka - Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to an innovative National Science Challenge.
Last week (4-8 March) the Sustainable Seas team were in Nelson on a LEARNZ virtual field trip. Sustainable Seas researchers talked to students from over 100 schools around New Zealand about ecosystem-based management, kaitiakitanga of the marine environment, ecosystem services and tracking plastics in our oceans.
Expressions of Interest are invited to join our exceptional team as a Theme Leader for the Enhancing Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) practices Theme.