In early 2015, KWR Watercycle Research Institute and Naturalis Biodiversity Center joined forces as each other’s preferred partners in a cooperation agreement in the area of ‘Biodiversity & Water. This spring, they then launched three innovative research projects, which involve, among others, the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) as a new means of monitoring aquatic biodiversity.
The projects aim to develop instruments to support (end) users in defining well-founded objectives; and to assist them in evaluating measures taken to meet the requirements of (inter)national legislation and policies, like the European Water Framework Directive.
Promising alternatives for water management
Biodiversity in lakes and rivers reflects an integrated image of environmental conditions, which determines the potential for the establishment and survival of organisms. This principle is the foundation of various systems for biological water quality monitoring. Knowledge of a water system’s biodiversity provides an important key to unlocking information on potential environmental constraints. Based on a sound diagnosis, one can formulate promising water management alternatives to restore aquatic ecosystems.
Identification using eDNA
The identification of organisms using eDNA can be very helpful in this respect. Plants and animals leave behind in their environment all kinds of traces (e.g., slime, skin cells and faeces) that contain their species-specific DNA. Such eDNA offers exciting new possibilities to monitor aquatic biodiversity in a fast, cost-efficient and reliable way. This is important, for instance, because of the steadily declining number of taxonomic experts. Both partner organisations also expect that the observed patterns of biodiversity in a water sample will give them information on the demands made by the species on their environment.