The California Current supports a mega-ecosystem in the Pacific Ocean. Beyond ecological benefits, this habitat is the basis for $56 billion in annual economic output and over 675,000 jobs. A recent study published in Molecular Ecology Resources, led by UCLA researchers, led to the creation of massive genetic library and made use of a more efficient identification method.
Traditionally, organisms must be counted by hand as divers use physical characteristics to identify species. The new technique expedites the process by using environmental DNA (eDNA), genetic material which organisms shed into their environments. Researchers are able to collect samples of ocean water and determine what species are present. The primary limitation to this method is that there must be existing identified samples to cross-references with the eDNA. Additionally, it is currently unclear whether eDNA can be used to determine abundance, how many individuals of each species are present.
Despite any limitations, this catalogue and technique for identifying species presence is an important breakthrough. The genetic library identifies 605 species present in the California Current, including 275 not previously catalogued. Additionally, it will allow researchers, conservationists, fisheries, and wildlife managers to understand species and ecosystem dynamics more quickly and cost-effectively. This includes being able to identify hotspots where certain species should be better protected.
Learn more at UCLA Newsroom.
Zachary Gold, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
Emily E. Curd, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
Paul H. Barber, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
Kelly D. Goodwin, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Emma S. Choi, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD
Benjamin W. Frable, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD
Andrew R. Thompson, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Harold J. Walker Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD
Ronald S. Burton, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD
Dovi Kacev, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD
Lucas D. Martz, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD