Conservation eDNA Monitoring with WWF Peru

  • Using NatureMetrics’ aquatic eDNA services, WWF Peru assessed vertebrate biodiversity across a vast tropical landscape.

  • Traditional surveys lacked scalability and required different survey methods for each target species.

  • Using eDNA surveys, WWF were able to survey all target species at onceand a range of additional species, reducing costs while increasing the amount of data obtained. 

Over 675 additional vertebrate species were detected beyond the initial target species, and these could be mapped across the landscape, providing vital data for informing conservation priorities and monitoring impacts. The field effort used for this project was the same as that traditionally required to survey river dolphins alone, but this project captured hundreds more species too.

Sector: Conservation

Services: eDNA from Water, DNA from Sediment and Consultancy

Location: Peru

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Benjamin Barca - Nature Metrics

Benjamin Barca, Business Development Manager

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WHAT DID WWF AIM TO ACHIEVE?

WWF is a leading international conservation organisation working in over 100 countries, supported by over 5 million members. WWF Peru carries out conservation and research across many study sites nationally. This project was undertaken as part of the Healthy Rivers, Healthy People programme. 

Their aims were to:

  • Map the distribution of manatees and river dolphinswhich are a conservation priority species in the Peruvian Amazon. 

  • Establish biodiversity baseline for over 500km of river in the Maranon Basin prior to expected impacts such as hydropower dams planned in the upper Marañon. 

  • Assess the status of commercially important species, including certain species of migratory catfish, which are an important food source for people in the region.

LIMITATIONS OF TRADITIONAL APPROACHES

Using traditional methods, separate survey methods are needed for each speciesleading to escalating costs and limited amounts of data obtained for each. Some species (e.g. manatees) are extremely difficult to detect using conventional surveys. 

OUR SOLUTION

A single eDNA analysis delivered data on all the target species at once plus hundreds of other vertebrate species, enabling a systematic sampling strategy to be employed across the entire landscape. This provided a far more comprehensive baseline for lower cost and effort.

The NatureMetrics three step process:

  • Sample: Using the NatureMetrics aquatic eDNA sampling kits, the team collected four 0.5 L eDNA samples at each of 40 points, collecting a total of 160 eDNA samples.

  • Analyse: Samples were sent to the NatureMetrics laboratories, where they were analysed using the vertebrate eDNA workflow to identify the species present in each sample and conduct ecological analyses. 

  • Data: NatureMetrics detailed the results in an easy-to-read report that was then sent to them. 

DELIVERABLES

All target species were detected along with a staggering diversity of additional Amazonian vertebrates. This dataset of 675 species had representatives from a wide range of taxonomic groups from fish, mammals and birds to amphibians and reptiles. This included species living in the water, on land, in the trees and even in the air (over 20 species of bat). Each species could be mapped across the entire landscape.

WHAT DID WWF ACHIEVE WITH NATUREMETRICS?

  • They have set a strong biodiversity baseline to work from in the future, whilst opening the possibilities of longer-term eDNA monitoring. 

  • WWF Peru have generated a more complete understanding of biodiversity in their Peruvian rivers, and they have gone above and beyond the usual standard for biomonitoring, raising the bar for biodiversity monitoring in conservation. 

WHAT DID WWF THINK OF NATUREMETRICS?

With NatureMetrics’ innovative aquatic eDNA service, we at WWF Peru were able to fully achieve our survey goal of detecting the spatial distributions of six culturally and commercially important aquatic species along the Marañon river, and we exceeded our goal by also detecting hundreds of additional vertebrate species, which we can now start to take into account in designing a sensitive index of basin ecosystem health. Without eDNA and NatureMetrics, we would have been relegated to visual surveys for just river dolphins, itself requiring more field time than the eDNA survey, and to opportunistic interviews for the other five target species, which are less reliable, auditable, and systematic. The hundreds of other species detections would not have been possible at all. 

Brenda Toledo, Coordinator of Amazonian Healthy Waters Programme, WWF Peru

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