Executing multi-taxa eDNA ecological assessment via traditional metrics and interactive networks

Seymour, Mathew; Edwards, Francois K.; Cosby, Bernard J. ORCID:; Kelly, Martyn G.; de Bruyn, Mark; Carvalho, Gary R.; Creer, Simon. 2020 Executing multi-taxa eDNA ecological assessment via traditional metrics and interactive networks. Science of the Total Environment, 729, 138801. 10, pp.

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Current approaches to ecological assessment are limited by the traditional morpho-taxonomic methods presently employed and the inability to meet increasing demands for rapid assessments. Advancements in high throughput sequencing now enable rapid high-resolution ecological assessment using environmental DNA (eDNA). Here we test the ability of using eDNA-based ecological assessment methods against traditional assessment of two key indicator groups (diatoms and macroinvertebrates) and show how eDNA across multiple gene regions (COI, rbcL, 12S and 18S) can be used to infer interactive networks that link to ecological assessment criteria. We compared results between taxonomic and eDNA based assessments and found significant positive associations between macroinvertebrate (p < 0.001 R2 = 0.645) and diatom (p = 0.015, R2 = 0.222) assessment metrics. We further assessed the ability of eDNA based assessment to identify environmentally sensitive genera and found an order of magnitude greater potential for 18S, versus COI or rbcL, to determine environmental filtering of ecologically assessed communities. Lastly, we compared the ability of traditional metrics against co-occurrence network properties of our combined 18S, COI and rbcL indicator genera to infer habitat quality measures currently used by managers. We found that transitivity (network connectivity), linkage density and cohesion were significantly associated with habitat modification scores (HMS), whereas network properties were inconsistent with linking to the habitat quality score (HQS) metric. The incorporation of multi-marker eDNA network assessment opens up a means for finer scale ecological assessment, currently limited using traditional methods. While utilization of eDNA-based assessment is recommended, direct comparisons with traditional approaches are difficult as the methods are intrinsically different and should be treated as such with regards to future research. Overall, our findings show that eDNA can be used for effective ecological assessment while offering a wider range of scope and application compared to traditional assessment methods.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: rbcL, COI, macroinvertebrates, diatom, 18S, high throughput sequencing, biomonitoring
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 03 Jun 2020 13:19 +0 (UTC)

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