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Mol Ecol. 2016 Feb;25(4):846-8. doi: 10.1111/mec.13535.

Aquatic biodiversity assessment for the lazy.

Author information

Epidemiology of Highly Pathogenic Microorganisms, Robert Koch-Institute, Seestrasse 10, 13353, Berlin, Germany.
Surveillance of Neglected Zoonotic Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa, Robert Koch-Institute, Seestrasse 10, 13353, Berlin, Germany.
Viral Evolution, Robert Koch-Institute, Seestrasse 10, 13353, Berlin, Germany.


The world is covered in DNA. In any ecosystem, extracellular DNA fragments can be found that once formed the genomes of a variety of micro- and macroorganisms. A few years ago, it was proposed to use this environmental DNA (eDNA) as a source of information on local vertebrate biodiversity (Ficetola et al. 2008; Taberlet et al. 2012). This idea offered an elegant solution to take up the gauntlet of rapidly increasing monitoring needs. Coupled with barcoding efforts, it promised to be cost-efficient in many respects, for example man-hours and taxonomic expertise. Ecologists and conservation biologists with an interest in aquatic ecosystems have enthusiastically adopted and pioneered this new method, producing dozens of eDNA studies. Most of these studies have, however, focused on a single or a few aquatic species. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Valentini et al. (2016) move the field a step further by demonstrating that metabarcoding approaches - which simultaneously target large groups of organisms such as amphibians or fish - can match and sometimes even outperform other inventory methods.


amphibians; biodiversity; environmental DNA; fish; metabarcoding

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