DNA Sequencing as a Tool to Monitor Marine Ecological Status

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Biological Sciences


Many ocean policies mandate integrated, ecosystem-based approaches to marine monitoring, driving a global need for efficient, low-cost bioindicators of marine ecological quality. Most traditional methods to assess biological quality rely on specialized expertise to provide visual identification of a limited set of specific taxonomic groups, a time-consuming process that can provide a narrow view of ecological status. In addition, microbial assemblages drive food webs but are not amenable to visual inspection and thus are largely excluded from detailed inventory. Molecular-based assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem function offer advantages over traditional methods and are increasingly being generated for a suite of taxa using a-microbes to mammals" or "barcodes to biomes" approach. Progress in these efforts coupled with continued improvements in high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatics pave the way for sequence data to be employed in formal integrated ecosystem evaluation, including food web assessments, as called for in the European Union Marine Strategy Framework Directive. DNA sequencing of bioindicators, both traditional (e.g., benthic macroinvertebrates, ichthyoplankton) and emerging (e.g., microbial assemblages, fish via eDNA), promises to improve assessment of marine biological quality by increasing the breadth, depth, and throughput of information and by reducing costs and reliance on specialized taxonomic expertise.

Publication Title

Frontiers in Marine Science



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