Acidity promotes degradation of multi-species environmental DNA in lotic mesocosms

Seymour M, Durance I, Cosby BJ, Ransom-Jones E, Deiner K, Ormerod SJ, Colbourne JK, Wilgar G, Carvalho GR, de Bruyn M, Edwards F, Emmett BA, Bik HM, Creer S, Communications Biology 1 (1) :4 (2018).
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Accurate quantification of biodiversity is fundamental to understanding ecosystem function and for environmental assessment. Molecular methods using environmental DNA (eDNA) offer a non-invasive, rapid, and cost-effective alternative to traditional biodiversity assessments, which require high levels of expertise. While eDNA analyses are increasingly being utilized, there remains considerable uncertainty regarding the dynamics of multispecies eDNA, especially in variable systems such as rivers. Here, we utilize four sets of upland stream mesocosms, across an acid–base gradient, to assess the temporal and environmental degradation of multispecies eDNA. Sampling included water column and biofilm sampling over time with eDNA quantified using qPCR. Our findings show that the persistence of lotic multispecies eDNA, sampled from water and biofilm, decays to non-detectable levels within 2 days and that acidic environments accelerate the degradation process. Collectively, the results provide the basis for a predictive framework for the relationship between lotic eDNA degradation dynamics in spatio-temporally dynamic river ecosystems.