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Commun Biol. 2018 Nov 5;1:185. doi: 10.1038/s42003-018-0192-6. eCollection 2018.

Persistence of environmental DNA in marine systems.

Author information

1School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol, BS8 1TQ UK.
2Ecosystems & Environment Research Centre, School of Environment & Life Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, M5 4WT UK.
3Norwegian College of Fishery Science, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, N-9037 Norway.
Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Buckhurst Road, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7PY UK.
5Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, PL1 2PB UK.
6Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, European Way, Southampton, SO14 3ZH UK.


As environmental DNA (eDNA) becomes an increasingly valuable resource for marine ecosystem monitoring, understanding variation in its persistence across contrasting environments is critical. Here, we quantify the breakdown of macrobial eDNA over a spatio-temporal axis of locally extreme conditions, varying from ocean-influenced offshore to urban-inshore, and between winter and summer. We report that eDNA degrades 1.6 times faster in the inshore environment than the offshore environment, but contrary to expectation we find no difference over season. Analysis of environmental covariables show a spatial gradient of salinity and a temporal gradient of pH, with salinity-or the biotic correlates thereof-most important. Based on our estimated inshore eDNA half-life and naturally occurring eDNA concentrations, we estimate that eDNA may be detected for around 48 h, offering potential to collect ecological community data of high local fidelity. We conclude by placing these results in the context of previously published eDNA decay rates.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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