Understanding environmental DNA detection probabilities: A case study using a stream-dwelling char Salvelinus fontinalis

Biological Conservation
By: , and 

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Abstract

Environmental DNA sampling (eDNA) has emerged as a powerful tool for detecting aquatic animals. Previous research suggests that eDNA methods are substantially more sensitive than traditional sampling. However, the factors influencing eDNA detection and the resulting sampling costs are still not well understood. Here we use multiple experiments to derive independent estimates of eDNA production rates and downstream persistence from brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in streams. We use these estimates to parameterize models comparing the false negative detection rates of eDNA sampling and traditional backpack electrofishing. We find that using the protocols in this study eDNA had reasonable detection probabilities at extremely low animal densities (e.g., probability of detection 0.18 at densities of one fish per stream kilometer) and very high detection probabilities at population-level densities (e.g., probability of detection > 0.99 at densities of ≥ 3 fish per 100 m). This is substantially more sensitive than traditional electrofishing for determining the presence of brook trout and may translate into important cost savings when animals are rare. Our findings are consistent with a growing body of literature showing that eDNA sampling is a powerful tool for the detection of aquatic species, particularly those that are rare and difficult to sample using traditional methods.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Understanding environmental DNA detection probabilities: A case study using a stream-dwelling char Salvelinus fontinalis
Series title Biological Conservation
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.12.023
Volume 194
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Kidlington, Oxford
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 8 p.
First page 209
Last page 216
Country United States
State Montana
Other Geospatial Shields River and Blackfoot River watersheds
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N