Scientists at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Department of Biology have made exciting progress in the ability to measure the health and biodiversity of a reef using just a small sample of water. Graduate student Patrick Nichols and associate professor Peter Marko pioneered the new research in environmental DNA (eDNA), which we outline here:

About eDNA

Analyzing the health of a reef generally depends upon visual surveys, including SCUBA. While visual surveys can provide us with important details about a reef, this method of data collection is time-consuming and imperfect. Environmental DNA, or eDNA, is present in all aquatic environments, as corals and other organisms slough cells into the water. In the past, eDNA results were difficult to decipher. The scientists from the University of Hawai’i have utilized their experience in molecular biology to demonstrate a link between the quantity of eDNA present in an environment and the abundance of organisms that exist in that environment.

“Metabarcoding” to Decipher eDNA

Although knowledge of eDNA has been growing for years, the latest breakthrough uses “metabarcoding” to analyze the water sample. In this process, scientists evaluate the sample using DNA sequencing. This allows analysts to identify the DNA of all present species, including the abundance of different types of coral. This information gives us a glimpse of essential details about the reef, including the biodiversity and the health of the corals. Reefs teeming with various types of living corals have a strong eDNA signature, while degraded reefs show little coral eDNA in the sample. Sequencing eDNA from a water sample allows scientists to keep a close eye on the health of coral reefs throughout the world, which is especially helpful in areas that are heavily affected by climate change. Additionally, sequencing eDNA with metabarcoding may offer the exciting opportunity to identify rare species of coral that are easily missed using traditional visual surveys.

Advances in DNA sequencing have made it possible to learn more about our environment than ever before. Metabarcoding may have a significant impact on the health of reefs around the world as this technique becomes more widely used. While it’s crucial to protect our planet’s natural wonders, you may prefer to propagate coral from home. Cultivating live coral in an aquarium is no simple task, and requires high-quality equipment to simplify the process. If you’re on the search for an advanced LED aquarium lighting system, our team can help. We offer premium LED lighting systems that are user-friendly and backed by a three-year workmanship warranty. To learn more about what we offer, please browse our products online.