Environmental DNA (eDNA) detection of marine aquatic invasive species (AIS) in Eastern Canada using a targeted species-specific qPCR approach.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) represent a significant threat to aquatic ecosystems, and early detection is a crucial step in mitigating risks of establishment and spread. In this study, we designed and/or optimized species-specific qPCR assays for 9 marine invertebrates considered invasive in Eastern Canada for use in conjunction with environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling. All qPCR assays showed high analytical sensitivity with theoretical limit of detection (LOD) ranging from 0.045 to 9.24 picogram (pg) of DNA. Comparison of two eDNA water sampling methods showed an increased detection sensitivity using the grab sample approach. eDNA AIS detections were also compared to results obtained using a traditional in situ biofouling monitoring method (i.e., biofouling monitoring lines), and a high concordance between the two was observed. We also determined temporal variability in the amount of DNA found in the environment for some of the targeted AIS, which will help target seasonal monitoring efforts. The results provided herein clearly demonstrate the usefulness of including eDNA for early AIS detection in ongoing monitoring, rapid response investigations and mitigation/eradication efforts.