A new technique developed by University of Alberta biologists can determine whether certain fish populations are native to lakes in national parks.
The technique takes a molecular approach, using environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis of lake sediment to provide important historical information necessary for determining the conservation status of many lakes in Western Canada.
“When you hold a fish, their scales feel slimy,” explained U of A biologist Rolf Vinebrooke. “Fish DNA sloughs off in their slime, so to speak, which is released into the water. Using eDNA analysis and standard sediment dating techniques, we can determine which fish species were in a particular lake at any given time.”
“The challenge for biologists in the coming generations will be to preserve native biodiversity and genetics under enormous anthropocentric pressures like climate and land-use change,” added study co-author Mark Poesch, associate professor in the Department of Renewable Resources.
“We’ve already seen numerous extirpations and extinctions in the past 100 years. This paper helps address the first step in dealing with this challenge by asking, ‘Did these lakes have native endangered species?’ The answer to this question can help save not only species, but also money and energy in directing people to areas where these species were known to exist,” Poesch added.