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DNA-based methods: technology solutions to evaluate ecosystem function (Part of 'Understanding ecosystems and resilience using DNA: Chief Scientist’s Group report')

Perry, Iain and Kille, Peter ORCID: 2021. DNA-based methods: technology solutions to evaluate ecosystem function (Part of 'Understanding ecosystems and resilience using DNA: Chief Scientist’s Group report'). Environment Agency.

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Isolation of genetic material from environmental samples (soil, water sediment), so called eDNA is now routine. These samples provide insight into the macro and micro ecology of the ecosystem from which they are isolated. Targeting specific sequences from specific species allows non-invasive sampling of organisms of interest. Information derived from DNA can be used to support conservation efforts and it also allows the tracking of pathogens and invasive species. More generic approaches allow us to profile bacterial, fungal, algal, plant or animal species. From these data we can perform multi-dimensional analysis, addressing key environmental questions. For example, a bacterial profile can report on the presence of pathogens or the impact of pollutants. Quantitative genetic approaches and Next Generation Sequencing technology that supports the use of eDNA, represents a mature technology with validated applications throughout the healthcare industry. New innovations will provide additional, enhanced utility and cost efficiencies, supporting increased spatial and temporal resolution monitoring with the potential to provide real time surveillance. Currently, these eDNA approaches have been deployed as adjuncts to established approaches limiting the potential benefits gained. Our recommendation is for a new generation of biomonitoring approaches to be adopted based on the full potential proved by eDNA. The potential of these novel eDNA approaches combined with good ecological knowledge and interpretation will provide the tools needed to realise ‘A Green Future’, and deliver the “Plan to Improve the Environment”. Since the technology is well established, the major hurdles to exploiting eDNA tools are in transferring from research tools to regulatory and industrial implementation. Our recommendation therefore are focused around a four step process to fast-track this objective: 1. Define and specify the explicit need or question. 2. Establish a transparent ‘AGILE’ assessments and validation processes. 3. Liaise between UKRI and BEIS to establish funding pipeline from research concept to product. 4. Engage with the industrial sectors to deliver products and services for the environmental sector.

Item Type: Monograph (UNSPECIFIED)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Publisher: Environment Agency
ISSN: HASH(0x9944ef8)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 December 2021
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2022 09:53

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