Organic matter reduces the amount of detectable environmental DNA in freshwater

Kees van Bochove, Freek T. Bakker, Kevin K. Beentjes, Lia Hemerik, Rutger A. Vos, Barbara Gravendeel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental DNA (eDNA) is used for monitoring the occurrence of freshwater organisms. Various studies show a relation between the amount of eDNA detected and target organism abundance, thus providing a potential proxy for reconstructing population densities. However, environmental factors such as water temperature and microbial activity are known to affect the amount of eDNA present as well. In this study, we use controlled aquarium experiments using Gammarus pulex L. (Amphipoda) to investigate the relationship between the amount of detectable eDNA through time, pH, and levels of organic material. We found eDNA to degrade faster when organic material was added to the aquarium water, but that pH had no significant effect. We infer that eDNA contained inside cells and mitochondria is extra resilient against degradation, though this may not reflect actual presence of target species. These results indicate that, although estimation of population density might be possible using eDNA, measured eDNA concentration could, in the future, be corrected for local environmental conditions in order to ensure accurate comparisons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3647-3654
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number8
Early online date21 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • degradation
  • detection
  • environmental DNA
  • Gammarus pulex
  • organic matter
  • pH

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