Water sampling maps region’s eDNA

Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) staff recently completed a second round of water sampling to map the region’s environmental DNA (eDNA).

The project utilises emerging technology and is linked to BMRG’s world-first regional scale Environmental Account that includes native vegetation and native fauna.

BMRG’s Director of Research, Tom Espinoza, said the sampling would provide valuable information.

“It means you can take a water sample and learn what species are in that section of the waterway by picking up fragments of their DNA,” he said.

“We did similar sampling in June 2022, but the rivers were in flood and the DNA may have been diluted, so we decided to do a second round to establish an accurate baseline.”

Mr Espinoza said 120 sites across the region were sampled to match the 2022 data.

EnviroDNA were engaged to undertake the analysis and results should be available soon.

According to the company’s website, eDNA enables earlier detection of species, more efficient detection of species that are hard to find or hard to identify, and ultimately, more effective management outcomes.

It applies broad-scale surveying to more easily generate baseline data, as well as targeted, more sensitive detection of single species for conservation and biosecurity.

EnviroDNA says the BMRG samples will be analysed using “metabarcoding methods to detect native and introduced aquatic vertebrates in the area”.

“These numbers are being used alongside other methods to provide a comprehensive environmental baseline for native vegetation and terrestrial fauna, along with culturally significant assets defined by Traditional Owners, and measures of soil and forest carbon.”

Future plans include comprehensive eDNA sampling across the Mary River catchment in conjunction with conventional testing methods to map threatened species.

The water sampling project was funded under the Australian Government’s program for Emergency Flood Recovery for Wildlife and Habitat.

NOTE: In partnership with Minderoo Foundation and Accounting for Nature, BMRG recently completed the world’s first regional scale environmental account – essentially, a 5.6 million hectare stocktake of the region’s natural assets such as vegetation cover, plants and animals.