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A comparison of eDNA to camera trapping for assessment of terrestrial mammal diversity


Leempoel, Kevin; Hadly, Elizabeth; Hebert, Trevor (2019), A comparison of eDNA to camera trapping for assessment of terrestrial mammal diversity, Dryad, Dataset,


Before environmental DNA (eDNA) can establish itself as a robust tool for biodiversity monitoring, comparison with existing approaches is necessary, yet is lacking for terrestrial mammals. Moreover, much is unknown regarding the nature, spread and persistence of DNA shed by animals into terrestrial environments, or the optimal experimental design for understanding these potential biases. To address some of these challenges, we compared the detection of terrestrial mammals using eDNA analysis of soil samples against confirmed species observations from a long-term (~9-yr) camera trapping study. At the same time, we considered multiple experimental parameters, including two sampling designs, two DNA extraction kits and two metabarcodes of different sizes. All mammals regularly recorded with cameras were detected in eDNA. In addition, eDNA reported many unrecorded small mammals whose presence in the study area is otherwise documented. A long metabarcode (≈220bp) offering a high taxonomic resolution, achieved a similar efficiency as a shorter one (≈70bp) and a phosphate buffer-based extraction gave similar results as a total DNA extraction method, for a fraction of the price. Our results support that eDNA-based monitoring should become a valuable part of ecosystem surveys, yet mitochondrial reference databases need to be enriched first.