Environmental DNA simultaneously informs hydrological and biodiversity characterization of an Alpine catchment

  • Elvira Mächler (Creator)
  • Anham Salyani (Creator)
  • Jean-Claude Walser (Creator)
  • Annegret Larsen (Creator)
  • Bettina Schaefli (Creator)
  • F. Altermatt (Creator)
  • Natalie Ceperlay (Creator)



Alpine streams are particularly valuable for downstream water resources and of high ecological relevance, however a detailed understanding of water storage and release in such heterogeneous environments is still often lacking. Observations of naturally occurring tracers, such as stable isotopes of water or electrical conductivity, are frequently used to track and explain hydrological patterns and processes. Importantly, some of these hydrological processes also create microhabitat variations in Alpine aquatic systems, each inhabited by characteristic organismal communities. The inclusion of such ecological diversity in a hydrologic assessment of an Alpine system may improve our understanding of hydrologic flows while also delivering biological information. Recently, the application of environmental DNA (eDNA) to assess biological diversity in water and connected habitats has gained popularity in the field of aquatic ecology. A few of these studies have started to link aquatic diversity with hydrologic processes, but hitherto never in an Alpine system. Here, we collected water from an Alpine catchment in Switzerland and compared the genetic information of eukaryotic organisms conveyed by eDNA with the hydrologic information conveyed by naturally-occurring, hydrologic tracers. Between March and September 2017, we sampled water at multiple time points at 10 sites distributed over the 13.4 km$^2$ Vallon de Nant catchment (Switzerland). The sites corresponded to three different water types and habitats, namely low flow or ephemeral tributaries, groundwater fed springs, and the main channel receiving water from both previous mentioned water types.
Date made available23 Dec 2020
Geographical coverageVallon de Nant, Switzerland


  • riverine metagenome

Accession numbers

  • PRJEB32569
  • ERP115269

Cite this