Environmental DNA : implementation for resource development projects in BC and beyond Hobbs, Jared, 1971-; Bright, Doug
Effective environmental protection, stewardship, and restoration require timely and accurate information about the status of a given ecosystem and the species that occupy it. Animals shed DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) as they complete their life processes, and this environmental DNA (eDNA) can be detected via analysis of samples collected from occupied habitats. Studies of eDNA have gained scientific and regulatory acceptance especially for the survey of at-risk aquatic and semi-aquatic species. The field effort associated with sample collection is less than that associated with traditional baited trapping, electro-shocking and/or physical searches, thus enabling more efficient data acquisition over space and time. In addition, this method is non-invasive to the target species and its habitat, reduces the risk of pathogen transfer between sites, is highly accurate, is very sensitive to detection of aquatic species, is able to detect the presence of pathogens and generally is more cost-effective for species that are difficult to detect using traditional methods. The credibility of eDNA survey data, however, depends on adequate methodological validation and verification; accurate results require rigour during field sampling, sample processing, laboratory analysis and primer design and/or verification. Hemmera recently developed accepted standards for collection of eDNA for the BC Ministry of Environment. The completion of more than 20 eDNA projects in British Columbia and the Yukon since 2014; for 18 aquatic taxa, including fish, amphibians, water shrews and pathogens, has provided clear evidence of the utility of this approach. This paper discusses the strengths and limitations of eDNA as a tool for addressing baseline data and monitoring requirements and assessing the effectiveness of reclamation efforts.
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