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NECR516 Developing eDNA approaches for the detection of European smelt (Osmerus eperlanus) on the River Wyre (NECR516)

The Wyre-Lune Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) was designated in 2019 and has the fish species European smelt (Osmerus eperlanus) as its only feature. The intention of designating the MCZ was to help protect remaining populations of smelt and prevent further loss or decline of populations. Historically, very little is known about the smelt population in the River Wyre, which is part of the Wyre-Lune MCZ. Therefore, this study contributes to the ongoing monitoring of smelt populations in the Wyre-Lune MCZ to better understand their spatio-temporal distributions.

The University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) were commissioned by Natural England to develop an eDNA based sampling methodology for detection of European smelt in the River Wyre. The main aims of the study were to obtain a DNA barcode of smelt, develop primers for single species eDNA smelt detection and analyse water samples for Smelt DNA presence. From this paper, Natural England and UHI were able to establish evidence that eDNA-based approaches are highly suitable for assessing spatio-temporal distribution of UK smelt populations in estuaries and coastal freshwater.

Additionally, the species-specific assay developed here is highly promising, providing at comparable costs, a slightly higher detection probability for European smelt. However, the eDNA metabarcoding was shown to have potential in providing information on other species in the fish community which could lead to a deeper understanding of interspecific ecological interactions.

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NECR516 Edition 1 Developing eDNA approaches for the detection of European smelt (Osmerus eperlanus) on the River Wyre, PDF, 1.8 MB 2024/01/18


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