Project dates: July 2023 - July 2024
Funding: This project has been funded by the University of Warwick Biosciences Impact Fund Link opens in a new windowin partnership with the Coventry City of Culture Biodiversity Team.
Image: Allesley Park, credit Gwyndion M. Williams (original image has been cropped).
The 2021 Environment Act mandates that local authorities must deliver significant improvements in biodiversity. This can be achieved on- or off-site through habitat creation and enhancement. The biodiversity net gain (BNG) must equate to 10% of biodiversity from a baseline date in late 2023, measured using the Government’s biodiversity metric, a coarse proxy for biodiversity which is based on habitat assessment. To assess delivery of BNG, species specific monitoring techniques are needed, which consider richness, diversity and presence of rare species.
eDNA Biodiversity Metabarcoding
Government guidance on measuring biodiversity is limited, and local authorities currently rely on predictions based on habitat quality assessment, which is expensive, limited to protected species, and misses rare taxa. To overcome these limitations, eDNA provides an alternative to traditional surveys that is faster, cheaper, and more accurate – allowing the scaling up of biodiversity monitoring over large areas.
Organisms shed DNA into their environment through skin cells, faeces and leaf/root matter. The team has extensive experience in using metabarcoding eDNA approaches to measure the composition of complex communities, including microbes, plants, and animals in terrestrial and aquatic habitats. These methods are key components of research conducted by Bending, Mushinski and Allaby. Additionally, Allaby is Director of Ecowarwicker Ecological Forensics which uses eDNA approaches for detection of mammals and amphibians.
The team will leverage their expertise and low-cost eDNA metabarcoding approaches to establish eDNA observatories for use by local authorities. This will support Coventry City Council in their monitoring efforts and determine the effectiveness of eDNA observatories in addressing policy requirements related to the 2021 Environment Act.
Local Policy and (e)DNA observatories
The goal of this project is to develop low-cost eDNA metabarcoding approaches to monitor biodiversity. This will support Coventry City Council in establishing environmental (e)DNA observatories to address policy related to the baseline monitoring and habitat improvement requirements of the Environment Act.
1. Adapt eDNA amplicon procedures to profile higher plant and animal (mammal, reptile and amphibian) communities.
2. Optimise the sampling regime for eDNA profiling of plant and animal diversity in parks containing multiple habitats.
3. Determine the temporal variation in animal and plant communities profiled using eDNA.
4. Devise recommendations for eDNA analysis of biodiversity, including sampling frequency and intensity, collection of meta-data, data analysis and interpretation, and archiving of samples and data.