ESR6: Metabarcoding of aquatic flora for fresh water quality monitoring

In short

Human impact on freshwater ecosystems by for example habitat degradation, overexploitation, and water pollution is causing a biodiversity loss five times higher than on terrestrial ecosystems. As a consequence, ecosystem services provided by these resources such as public health and food security are under a growing risk. Globally, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water and waterborne diseases cause about 1.5 million human deaths annually. Water quality assessment is a critical step in taking appropriate measures to maintain healthy ecosystems and protect human health. However, in view of current anthropogenic threats to freshwater ecosystems, the methods currently used by environmental agencies and stakeholders are inefficient and slow. In this project, we will develop a novel and fast method for freshwater quality assessment, primarily by using diatoms as indicator organisms. A genetic database will be developed and utilized for identification and quantification of different indicator groups from water samples to help inform decision-makers with more and reliable data.

Project description

Monitoring of fresh water quality is traditionally done by microscopic determination of organisms in water aliquots, which is time consuming. Sequencing of environmental DNA (eDNA) is therefore increasingly used to supplement traditional surveys. DNA barcodes will be collected from museum specimens. Fresh water samples of different qualities will be sampled for eDNA. Metabarcodes and species identification obtained from high-throughput sequencing and species abundances from ddPCR analysis will subsequently be compared to results from traditional microscopy. Using aquarium assays and fossil ice cores, patterns of degradation of eDNA over time will be assessed to distinguish past from present biodiversity.

Objective: Species-level identification and abundance of aquatic flora (higher plants, algae, diatoms) for fresh water quality assessment with genomic analysis of eDNA.