DNA from rivers will help find endangered animals. A new water analysis technique will allow scientists to identify “a whole community of mammals”, including species whose populations are difficult to control in other ways. This is stated in a study by scientists from the University of Massachusetts, published in the journal Journal of Applied Ecology.
According to UN estimates, by 2050, nearly 1 million animal species will die out on Earth, including a huge number of insects. Already, 75% of land, 40% of the ocean and 50% of river waters “demonstrate degradation due to human activities”.
This is mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the organization, since 1980 the level of anthropogenic emissions has doubled – this has led to an increase in the average temperature on Earth of at least 0.7°C.
However, the extinction rate of some mammalian species is often difficult to control. Traditional research methods, such as camera traps, are not suitable for all species. The authors of the study note that environmental DNA analysis (eDNA) will greatly expand the list of monitoring tools.
As a test of their hypothesis, researchers collected water and sediment from streams and rivers in Scotland and England. They discovered the DNA of more than 20 species of wild mammals and compared the results with historical records, field observations, and camera traps.
The analysis showed that eDNA “provides similar or better accuracy in identifying water voles compared to finding them using cameras or field studies”. The authors believe that this is relevant for the identification of other species of mammals.