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Characterising patterns of aquatic biodiversity across coastal and inland ephemeral wetland habitats using eDNA technologies
thesisposted on 2021-04-16, 00:00 authored by Harrison Coleman
Environmental DNA (eDNA) technologies are revolutionising the field of wildlife monitoring, providing opportunities to detect native and invasive species via the genetic material they shed into the surrounding environment. While eDNA survey approaches have been applied widely in a range of aquatic habitats, often proving to be more sensitive than traditional survey approaches, applications in wetland habitats are limited. In this study, eDNA metabarcoding is used to map patterns of biodiversity across a range of coastal and inland ephemeral wetlands of varying condition in South-East Australia, with a key focus on fish, amphibian and bird communities. Significant patterns of biogeographic structuring between coastal and inland ephemeral wetlands were observed and expected, given the geographical isolation and natural hydrological differences between these habitats. However, habitat condition had little effect on community composition, highlighting the environmental value of even the most disturbed wetland habitats. Direct comparisons of eDNA and traditional survey data indicate that eDNA survey approaches were more sensitive in the detection of freshwater obligate taxa, while traditional methods might outperform eDNA in the detection of amphibians and birds. This demonstrates the value of adopting hybrid survey approaches that combine both eDNA and traditional survey methods for future wetland biodiversity assessments. Overall, this study provides valuable biodiversity overlays for wetland habitats in south-eastern Australia and provides a framework for guiding future wetland management.