A broad consortium is working within TKI Water Technology to develop and make available DNA techniques for the monitoring of biodiversity. The application of the most recent “High Throughput” DNA techniques is one promising method, particularly in aquatic environments. The consortium brings together DNA and field expertise, with the ultimate objective of enabling the application of the technique for the fulfilment of water management monitoring requirements.
The protection of biodiversity is at the top of (political) agendas all over the world. The issue has been given high priority both at the European level (EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020) and the global level (UN Convention on Biological Diversity). In the Netherlands we have legal and regulatory frameworks, such as the European Water Framework Directive (WFP) and Natura 2000, and the Flora and Fauna Act, the purpose of which is to ensure the protection of biodiversity. A number of nature inventories are conducted within these frameworks. The inventories and identifications are made on the basis of morphological characteristics, either with or without the use of microscopes. These classic methods demand specialist knowledge and are labour-intensive and time-consuming, and therefore expensive. Moreover, one has to wait a long time for the results. DNA techniques, in turn, can reduce costs and generate faster results.
In April 2014, the knowledge entities KWR Watercycle Research Institute, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, University of Applied Sciences Leiden and Stichting EIS, together with the consultancies Royal HaskoningDHV and Koeman & Bijkerk, and the DNA technology company BaseClear, launched a TKI project aimed at connecting field expertise to DNA results. The project is enriching in two ways: first, the tracing and identification of the animal species and plants expands the DNA reference database, which is essential in enabling the derivation of specific species names from the DNA encountered. And, second, the use of the DNA results can also incite hydro biological analysts to begin looking for the specific organism that they failed to find in their own searches. “Thanks to DNA techniques we can determine, in a routine and reliable manner, the species that are present in water samples. We make our collection and knowledge available for purposes of water management, and together give a strong impulse to water quality diagnostics,” says Berry van der Hoorn, programme leader of Nature in the Netherlands at Naturalis.
The project involves the elaboration of two DNA methods. On the one hand, work is being done on a method which homogenises and analyses water samples for all the DNA they contain, and thus demonstrates the presence of the associated species (metabarcoding and bulk samples). On the other hand, work is also being done on the specific detection of difficult-to-trace or rare organisms, such as the protected Dytiscus latissimus beetle. This is accomplished through the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques, in which the traces left by animals and plants in the environment betray their presence. The initial tests using eDNA methods have been positive. Read more about the results on KWR’s website .