Morphology-based benthic foraminifera indices are increasingly used worldwide for biomonitoring the ecological quality of marine sediments. The recent development of foraminiferal eDNA metabarcoding offers a reliable, time-, and cost-effective alternative to morphology-based foraminiferal biomonitoring. However, the practical applications of these new tools are still highly limited.
Since 2010, considerable efforts have been undertaken to monitor the environmental status of European marine waters and ensuring the development of methodological standards for the evaluation of this status. However, the current routine biomonitoring implicates time-consuming and costly manual sorting and morphological identification of benthic macrofauna.
Since the 1960 s, there has been a rapid expansion of drilling activities in the central and northern Adriatic Sea to meet the increasing global energy demand. The discharges of organic and inorganic pollutants, as well as the alteration of the sediment substrate, are among the main impacts associated with these activities.
The environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding represents a new promising tool for biomonitoring and environmental impact assessment. One of the main advantages of eDNA metabarcoding, compared to the traditional morphotaxonomy-based methods, is to provide a more holistic biodiversity information that includes inconspicuous morphologically non-identifiable taxa.
Mercury (Hg) is a highly toxic element for living organisms and is known to bioaccumulate and biomagnify. Here, we analyze the response of benthic foraminifera communities cultured in mesocosm and exposed to different concentrations of Hg. Standard morphological analyses and environmental DNA metabarcoding show evidence that Hg pollution has detrimental effects on benthic foraminifera.
At present, environmental impacts from offshore oil and gas activities are partly determined by measuring changes in macrofauna diversity. Morphological identification of macrofauna is time-consuming, expensive and dependent on taxonomic expertise. In this study, we evaluated the applicability of using foraminiferal-specific metabarcoding for routine monitoring.
Environmental diversity surveys are crucial for the bioassessment of anthropogenic impacts on marine ecosystems. Traditional benthic monitoring relying on morphotaxonomic inventories of macrofaunal communities is expensive, time-consuming and expertise-demanding. High-throughput sequencing of environmental DNA barcodes (metabarcoding) offers an alternative to describe biological communities.
Recent developments in DNA barcoding and environmental genomics based on next-generation sequencing technologies offer a new avenue for exploring the diversity of life in the oceans. These techniques can be applied to any type of marine sample (water, sediment, stomach contents) and can focus on a specific group of organisms or provide data on global biodiversity. They can be used to detect only metabolically active organisms (RNA) or to follow long-term changes by analysing DNA preserved in the environment.