Environmental DNA or eDNA testing is the process of sampling nuclear DNA that is released from an organism into its habitat. The most common sources of eDNA include faeces, mucous, shed skin, hair and carcasses.
Thanks to recent science, we can now test for eDNA for a range of aquatic organisms in water samples at even very small populations. However, aquatic environments, such as ponds, dilute and distribute DNA in the water where it survives for just 7–21 days, depending on the conditions.
That said, the DNA of organisms found in sediments can be preserved for thousands of years.
The most common uses for Environmental DNA are Great Crested Newts, White Clawed Crayfish and Bat species identification (known as terrestrial eDNA).
As forensic science continues to be developed, Environmental DNA will allow us to broaden our testing and analysis spectrum to include more protected species. For example,
Other amphibians. Actually, it is technically practical to test for the presence of all widespread native amphibians using an eDNA test due to the science used for Great Crested Newts. Methods to detect fish are also rapidly developing. There are relatively widespread protected species of fish species in our waterways.
Thomsen et al. (2012) demonstrated that eDNA could be used to detect aquatic mammals: species such as Water Vole and Water Shrew which are protected species along the banks on ponds and water bodies.
Other protected species such as invertebrates could make Environmental DNA testing could prove a more reliable and cost-effective method of survey.
And finally, eDNA testing has already been identified as potentially valuable for locating populations of invasive non-native species (e.g. Bullfrog) and non-native fish which may be released into ponds and river systems.
Chase Ecology has been at the forefront of Environmental DNA since its inception to ecology. We have been fortunate to be able to use this science with a 100% success rate. As technological advancements continue it is allowing us to continue being the UK’s leading eDNA ecology consultancy.