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Natural Resources Management

What is eDNA?

Publication date: 14-02-2024, Read time: 4 min

In the past, mapping microbia biodiversity was a tedious process. Scientists needed a swab from a leaf or soil to grow bacteria in petri dishes, which took a long time and made identifying species difficult. With the modern technology of eDNA, scientists are able to identify species through a process called "metabarcoding", which consists of analyzing a small piece of DNA - such as a fragment of the mitochondrial DNA. This allows scientists to detect a wide range of organisms, including those that are difficult to observe directly.

Environmental DNA or eDNA is a technique used to detect and analyze genetic material left by organisms in the environment. Scientists can use environmental DNA for a number of things, including  mapping bacteria biodiversity, tracking invasive species, and monitoring the recovery of ecosystems.

One of the key advantages of eDNA is that it can be collected non-invasively, which means that it does not harm the organisms being studied. This makes it an ideal tool for monitoring endangered species or sensitive ecosystems. Additionally, eDNA can be collected from large areas in a relatively short amount of time, making it an efficient method for biodiversity assessments. These biodiversity assessments can be performed at different levels: ecosystem, species and genetic levels.

In addition to its use in biodiversity research, eDNA can also play a role in conservation and management efforts. For example, scientists can use eDNA to track the spread of invasive species and monitor the effectiveness of control efforts.

What do we do at ITC?

Biodiversity loss happens at a range of scales and levels. ITC’s BIOSPACE project aims to measure this loss at a fine granular scale. It does this by monitoring biodiversity over large areas, using environmental DNA (eDNA) profiles in combination with hyperspectral and LiDAR satellite remote sensing. One of the goals of the BIOSPACE project is to contribute to the European Union Biodiversity Strategy 2030 and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 targets, which aim to stop the loss of biodiversity by 2030 and restore ecosystems by 2050. 

For more information about BIOSPACE, please contact Dr Andrew Skidmore 

Natural Resources Management
Last edited: 07-05-2024

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