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Bringing environmental DNA Methods to BECC

START: 2021

Global biodiversity is in decline due to human land use, exploitation, and climate change. To understand whether our forthcoming actions and policy implementation counteract this alarming trend, it is paramount to closely follow the state of biodiversity at regional and global scales. The monitoring of species from the DNA they leave behind, so called ‘environmental DNA’ (eDNA) has emerged as one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Environmental DNA refers to all DNA contained in an environmental sample, including whole microorganisms, propagules such as pollen and spores as well extra-organismal DNA which has been shed by larger organisms. Collecting samples for eDNA is rapid, cost-effective and non-destructive. In combination with high-throughput sequencing, it is now possible to simultaneously detect thousands of species from complex environmental samples (by eDNA metabarcoding or shotgun metagenomics). Making eDNA a powerful tool and revolutionizing the detection of biodiversity in many ecosystems. The use of eDNA is rapidly growing: in terrestrial ecosystems flower swabs have been sequenced to study pollinator interactions, leaves to study ungulate browsers, blood meals to study vertebrate diversity, droppings to study diets, honey to study foraging behaviour of bees, or topsoil to measure mammal diversity.

The application of eDNA methods has huge potential to stimulate progress in research within BECC. While studying biodiversity is at the core of a large part of BECCs research, to date only few of us have tapped into the full potential of eDNA methods. The aim of this action group is to achieve competence and network building and serve as a kick-starter for the integration of modern eDNA methods in biodiversity research at BECC, and as such support ongoing projects and strengthen future applications and research.