Estimating species richness using environmental DNA

Brett P. Olds, Christopher L. Jerde, Mark A. Renshaw, Yiyuan Li, Nathan T. Evans, Cameron R. Turner, Kristy Deiner, Andrew R. Mahon, Michael A. Brueseke, Patrick D. Shirey, Michael E. Pfrender, David M. Lodge, Gary A. Lamberti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


The foundation for any ecological study and for the effective management of biodiversity in natural systems requires knowing what species are present in an ecosystem. We assessed fish communities in a stream using two methods, depletion-based electrofishing and environmental DNA metabarcoding (eDNA) from water samples, to test the hypothesis that eDNA provides an alternative means of determining species richness and species identities for a natural ecosystem. In a northern Indiana stream, electrofishing yielded a direct estimate of 12 species and a mean estimated richness (Chao II estimator) of 16.6 species with a 95% confidence interval from 12.8 to 42.2. eDNA sampling detected an additional four species, congruent with the mean Chao II estimate from electrofishing. This increased detection rate for fish species between methods suggests that eDNA sampling can enhance estimation of fish fauna in flowing waters while having minimal sampling impacts on fish and their habitat. Modern genetic approaches therefore have the potential to transform our ability to build a more complete list of species for ecological investigations and inform management of aquatic ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4214-4226
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Chao estimator
  • electrofishing
  • freshwater community
  • metabarcoding
  • species identity


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