Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Simultaneous detection of native and invasive crayfish and Aphanomyces astaci from environmental DNA samples in a wide range of habitats in Central Europe.

Abstract

Crayfish of North American origin are amongst the most prominent high-impact invasive invertebrates in European freshwaters. They contribute to the decline of European native crayfish species by spreading the pathogen causing crayfish plague, the oomycete Aphanomyces astaci. In this study we validated the specificity of four quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays, either published or newly developed, usable for environmental DNA (eDNA) screening for widely distributed native and non-native crayfish present in Central Europe: Astacus astacus, Pacifastacus leniusculus, Faxonius limosus and Procambarus virginalis. We then conducted an eDNA monitoring survey of these crayfish as well as the crayfish plague pathogen in a wide variety of habitat types representative for Central and Western Europe. The specificity of qPCR assays was validated against an extensive collection of crayfish DNA isolates, containing most crayfish species documented from European waters. The three assays developed in this study were sufficiently species-specific, but the published assay for F. limosus displayed a weak cross-reaction with multiple other crayfish species of the family Cambaridae. In the field study, we infrequently detected eDNA of A. astaci together with the three non-native crayfish species under examination. We never detected eDNA from A. astaci together with native crayfish, but in a few locations eDNA from both native and non-native crayfish was captured, due either to passive transport of eDNA from upstream populations or co-existence in the absence of infected crayfish carriers of A. astaci. In the study, we evaluated a robust, easy-to-use and low-cost version of the eDNA sampling equipment, based mostly on items readily available in garden stores and hobby markets, for filtering relatively large (~5 l) water samples. It performed just as well as the far more expensive equipment industrially designed for eDNA water sampling, thus opening the possibility of collecting suitable eDNA samples to a wide range of stakeholders. Overall, our study confirms that eDNA-based screening for crayfish and their associated pathogen is a feasible alternative to traditional monitoring.