Posted on 21 May 2021

New eDNA research helps uncover the health of our estuaries

Recent research in two Nelson estuaries shows that environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding offers a sensitive approach to detect nutrient enrichment effects.

Lead author Dana Clark is a marine ecologist at Cawthron Institute and a PhD student at University of Waikato. She was part of our Tipping Points project team and worked alongside partners to better understand our estuaries using eDNA.

Watch Dana explain in this quick video:

eDNA are the tiny traces of DNA that organisms like shellfish, worms, and bacteria leave behind in estuaries. Studying these traces is an important and cost-effective tool to detect changes in ecosystems.

This is good news for Aotearoa New Zealand’s estuaries.

These important ecosystems are under increasing pressure from nutrient runoff. Traditional estuary monitoring does not capture the impacts of nutrients on smaller organisms like bacteria, which respond rapidly to changing environmental conditions.This new eDNA approach can help scientists quickly detect ecosystem changes and manage our estuary health better.

Dana presented her research at the DNAQUA International Conference in March this year, and she won the People’s Choice Award!

Watch her award-winning talk


Read the research: 

Environmental DNA metabarcoding reveals estuarine benthic community response to nutrient enrichment – Evidence from an in-situ experiment




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Tipping points in ecosystem structure, function and services
Tipping points in ecosystem structure, function and services

We investigated how marine ecosystems respond to change, and identified tipping points, risks and ways of managing them.