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Environmental DNA needs reference data to inform taxonomy-based conservation policy – A case study from Aotearoa / New Zealand
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  • Paul Czechowski,
  • Michel de Lange,
  • Michael Heldsinger,
  • Will Rayment,
  • Chris Hepburn,
  • Monique Ladds,
  • Michael Knapp
Paul Czechowski
University of Otago - Dunedin Campus

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Michel de Lange
University of Otago
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Michael Heldsinger
University of Otago - Dunedin Campus
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Will Rayment
University of Otago - Dunedin Campus
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Chris Hepburn
University of Otago - Dunedin Campus
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Monique Ladds
New Zealand Department of Conservation
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Michael Knapp
University of Otago - Dunedin Campus
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Abstract

Analysis of environmental DNA by metabarcoding may achieve regular surveillance of multiple species relatively easily. However, eDNA taxonomic inquiries need suitable reference data, which are often lacking. We evaluate the impact of this data void by way of example of fish in remote fiords of New Zealand, comparing eDNA-derived species identifications against Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) data. Furthermore, we cross referenced eDNA and BRUV data against species lists for obtained from literature and the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). From all data sources, we obtained 116 species records (106 ray-finned fishes, 10 cartilaginous fishes; 59 from literature, 44 from eDNA, 25 from BRUV, 25 from OBIS). Concordance of taxonomies between the data sources dissolved with lowering taxonomy, most decisively so for eDNA. BRUV agreed with local biodiversity information much better and fared better in detecting biodiversity dissimilarities. Metabarcoding eDNA will remain a powerful but impaired tool for species-level biodiversity management without locally generated reference data.