New, non-invasive techniques are turning samples of sea water into treasure troves of genetic information about the species living below. Without disturbing the environment, researchers can take a sample that tells them exactly what was at that site. As animals move through their environment, they are constantly shedding fragments of genetic material such as dead skin, faeces and other body fluids which are known as Environmental DNA or eDNA. By extracting this eDNA from water, soil or air samples, researchers can determine the presence and diversity of species with unprecedented accuracy, providing a snapshot of the intricacies of that ecosystem that can be used to monitor and therefore manage the biodiversity in that ecosystem. The eDNA technique not only enables researchers to monitor biodiversity but also detect alien invasive species, track endangered or elusive species as well as monitor wastewater for pathogens, it has even uncovered the existence of species that were previously thought to be extinct!
MARCO-BOLO’s Work Package (WP) 2 led by CNRS and UiT, aims to enable eDNA-based approaches such as single species detection, DNA metabarcoding and metagenomics, for biodiversity monitoring across trophic and functional groups, from microbes to vertebrates, and in marine, terrestrial and freshwater systems. Learn more about WP2.
MARCO-BOLO project participant UNESCO is carrying out eDNA Expeditions as part of a global, citizen science initiative that will help measure marine biodiversity and the impacts climate change might have on the distribution patterns of marine life, across UNESCO World Heritage marine sites.