Elvira MaÈchler1,2*, Maslin Osathanunkul1,3,4, Florian Altermatt1,2
1 Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Department of Aquatic Ecology, DuÈbendorf, Switzerland, 2 Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, ZuÈrich, Switzerland, 3 Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University, Tumbol Suthep Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 4 Center of Excellence in Bioresources for Agriculture, Industry and Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Tumbol Suthep Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) as a species detection tool is attracting attention from both scientific and applied fields, especially for detecting invasive or rare species. In order to use eDNA as an efficient and reliable tool, however, we need to understand its origin and state as well as factors affecting its degradation. Various biotic and abiotic environmental factors have been proposed to affect degradation of eDNA in aquatic environments and thus to influence detection rates of species. Here, we were interested in two of them, namely UV light, which can break down DNA, and the presence of filter feeders, which can remove DNA and DNA-bound particles. A few, mostly laboratory-based studies have found minor effects of UVB on the degradation of eDNA. Ultraviolet A radiation (UVA), however, has been neglected although it also causes DNA lesions and is 10- to 100-fold more prevalent than UVB when reaching the earth’s surface. Filter feeders are common in aquatic ecosystem, but their effects on eDNA has hitherto been ignored. We conducted a full-factorial aquatic mesocosm experiment under near-natural outdoor conditions manipulating UV radiation as well as the presence of Dreissena polymorpha, a strong filter feeder capable of filtering cells or organelles containing DNA. Surprisingly, we found that neither UV radiation nor the presence of the filter feeder affected eDNA-based detection rates of macroinvertebrates, even though the experiment took place in summer when UV radiation intensity and filtration activity is high for the chosen experimental site and conditions. These results, in combination with studies from marine or laboratory settings finding no effect of sunlight and its UV components on the detectability of eDNA, suggest that eDNA based species assessments could be relatively robust with respect to our two factors studied.
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