‘Environmental DNA’ tests could aid in management of commercial, endangered fish

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Bull trout are a threatened species in the US Northwest. (Photo: Wade Fredenberg, USFWS)

Environmental DNA, or eDNA, is at the center of a brand new kind of fish and wildlife biology, and it is such a powerful tool that it’s transforming the field. eDNA was first used to detect invasive bullfrogs in France a decade ago. It was used in North America for the first time in 2009 and 2010 to detect invasive Asian carp in and around the Great Lakes. Since then, its use has grown exponentially, primarily in marine and freshwater environments.

“You can’t manage a species if you don’t know where it is — even 80-pound Asian carp, because you can’t see them underwater,” said Cornell University biologist David Lodge, who participated in the Asian carp study. “So eDNA is particularly powerful in aquatic systems.”

The DNA is so easy and inexpensive to gather and assay — $50 to $150 to test each sample — that the U.S. Forest Service has launched a project to collect DNA from all rivers and streams across the western U.S. to create an Aquatic Environmental DNA Atlas.

Scientists say that eDNA can be used not only to detect the presence of invasive species in a river, lake, or ocean, but also to help reintroduce native species, to study genetic diversity among fish stocks, and to better manage commercial and endangered species.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: A Splash of River Water Now Reveals the DNA of All Its Creatures