An environmental DNA metabarcoding approach to monitoring red algal biodiversity

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University of New Brunswick


Biodiversity monitoring is an important tool in ecosystem conservation as it can provide reliable detection of invasive species, indicate resilience after disaster, and serves as evidence for successful management of resources or ecosystems. Despite biodiversity loss being one of our most critical conservation challenges, biodiversity monitoring in marine ecosystems is typically conducted using molecular-assisted alpha taxonomic (MAAT) surveys, which have several limitations. This study compares red algal species richness and compositional diversity detected using environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding to that detected using a typical MAAT survey. My aim was to determine if eDNA analyses provide a cost-effective and comprehensive alternative to traditional survey methods, and to improve upon the currently available reference libraries for red algae. The results of this support a growing bank of literature suggesting that a combination of MAAT and eDNA methods remains the best approach for maximizing species detection.