Cindy Bessey

and 5 more

Passive collection is an emerging sampling method for environmental DNA (eDNA) in aquatic systems. Passive eDNA collection is inexpensive, efficient, and requires minimal equipment, making it suited to high density sampling and remote deployment. Here, we compare the effectiveness of nine membrane materials for passively collecting fish eDNA from a 3 million litre marine mesocosm. We submerged materials (cellulose, cellulose with 1% and 3% chitosan, cellulose overlayed with electrospun nanofibers and 1% chitosan, cotton fibres, hemp fibres and sponge with either zeolite or active carbon) for intervals between five and 1080 minutes. We show that for most materials, with as little as five minutes submersion, mitochondrial fish eDNA measured with qPCR, and fish species richness measured with metabarcoding, was comparable to that collected by conventional filtering. Furthermore, PCR template DNA concentrations and species richness were generally not improved significantly by longer submersion. Species richness detected for all materials ranged between 11 to 37 species, with a median of 27, which was comparable to the range for filtered eDNA (19-32). Using scanning electron microscopy, we visualised biological matter adhered to the surface of materials, rather than entrapped, with images also revealing a diversity in size and structure of putative eDNA particles. Environmental DNA can be collected rapidly from seawater with a passive approach and using a variety of materials. This will suit cost and time-sensitive biological surveys, and where access to equipment is limited.