Systematics, Biodiversity and Evolution of Plants

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Friday July 05, 2024, 5pm GMT+2


Isa Schön1,2, Yelle Vandenboer1 and Deborah Dupont1

eDNA and metabarcoding as new tool to monitor (toxic) phytoplankton

1. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, OD Nature, ATECO, Freshwater Biology, Vautierstraat 29, 1000 Brussels,
2. Centre for Environmental Sciences, University of Hasselt, Agrolaan Building D, 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium


The development of high throughput automatic DNA sequencing methods has led to an explosive growth of environmental DNA and metabarcoding studies. eDNA metabarcoding allows to study an entire community together and has been shown to be faster and cheaper than classic methods to characterize marine biodiversity. Here, we have applied eDNA metabarcoding to phytoplankton of the Belgian part of the North Sea. As part of the monthly monitoring campaigns of our institute, we collected and filtered water samples during 15 cruises with RV Belgica in 2022 and 2023 at three locations. We amplified and sequenced a longer part of 18S than in other studies by using Oxford Nanopore long read sequencing technology. Our approach was highly successful as we could identify phytoplankton taxa to the species level. With this fine resolution, we could unravel temporal and spatial patterns of phytoplankton diversity. Most toxic taxa could also be identified to the species level, allowing us to link their occurrence to potential negative effects. This kind of information is essential for aquaculture, fisheries and human recreation.