Prospects and challenges of environmental DNA (eDNA) monitoring in freshwater ponds
AuthorHarper, Lynsey R.; Buxton, Andrew S.; Rees, Helen C.; Bruce, Kat; Brys, Rein; Halfmaerten, David; Read, Daniel S.; Watson, Hayley V.; Sayer, Carl D.; Jones, Elanor P.; Priestley, Victoria; Mächler, Elvira; Múrria, Cesc; Garcès-Pastor, Sandra; Medupin, Cecilia; Burgess, Katherine; Benson, Gillian; Boonham, Neil; Griffiths, Richard A.; Handley, Lori Lawson; Hänfling, Bernd
Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis is a rapid, non-invasive, cost-efficient biodiversity monitoring tool with enormous potential to inform aquatic conservation and management. Development is ongoing, with strong commercial interest, and new uses are continually being discovered. General applications of eDNA and guidelines for best practice in freshwater systems have been established, but habitat-specific assessments are lacking. Ponds are highly diverse, yet understudied systems that could benefit from eDNA monitoring. However, eDNA applications in ponds and methodological constraints specific to these environments remain unaddressed. Following a stakeholder workshop in 2017, researchers combined knowledge and expertise to review these applications and challenges that must be addressed for the future and consistency of eDNA monitoring in ponds. The greatest challenges for pond eDNA surveys are representative sampling, eDNA capture, and potential PCR inhibition. We provide recommendations for sampling, eDNA capture, inhibition testing, and laboratory practice, which should aid new and ongoing eDNA projects in ponds. If implemented, these recommendations will contribute towards an eventual broad standardisation of eDNA research and practice, with room to tailor workflows for optimal analysis and different applications. Such standardisation will provide more robust, comparable, and ecologically meaningful data to enable effective conservation and management of pond biodiversity.