eDNA-based detection of the crayfish plague, Aphanomyces astaci (Schikora 1906), in Germany

  • Biodiversity is threatened worldwide because of ongoing habitat loss and fragmentation, overexploitation, pollution, biological invasions and a changing global climate. Due to the major importance of biological diversity for modern human living, efficient conservation and management strategies are required to protect endangered habitats and species. For this purpose, ambitious multilateral agreements on regional and global scale were declared to prevent biodiversity loss. Efficient biomonitoring methods are required to adequately implement these biodiversity conventions. Species monitoring as a core activity in biodiversity research is an effective tool to assess the status of species and trends within habitats. Data collection can be obtained with visual, electronic or genetic surveys. Still, these monitoring programs can be expensive, laborious and inefficient for accurate species assessments. New techniques based on environmental DNA (eDNA) allows for the detection of DNA traces in environmental samples (soil, sediment, water and air samples) and open up new possibilities for species monitoring. The eDNA methodology enables detection of single species in a qualitative (presence/absence) or (semi-) quantitative way. eDNA metabarcoding approaches can be an effective community structure assessment method. This thesis, located at the interface between experimental and applied research, illustrates the suitability of the eDNA methodology in applied biomonitoring using the example of the water-borne crayfish plague pathogen Aphanomyces astaci (Schikora 1906). The obtained results provide new insights into A. astaci sporulation dynamics in natural water courses. A. astaci sporulation is influenced by seasonal variation of water temperatures and life history traits (molting, activity, mating) of infected crayfish. The results also imply a high transmission risk of A. astaci spores during the complete year. This thesis compares two eDNA methods, which are successfully and consistently detecting A. astaci spores. Each approach is suitable for different biomonitoring tasks due to the method-specific requirements. The obtained results also reveal spatial variation in A. astaci occurance in the tested water bodies. A. astaci spore estimates are positively correlated with population density and pathogen loads of captured A. astaci- positive crayfish. eDNA results show a downstream zoospore transport of up to three kilometres distance from a distribution hot spot area of A. astaci-infected crayfish. The eDNA methodology is helpful in gaining reliable information on A. astaci occurrence in large water bodies. This information is urgently needed to initiate efficient management decisions for the conservation of European crayfish species. eDNA-based methods such as for A. astaci detection are a useful complement for conventional monitoring and should have a strong impact on conservation policy. eDNA methodology will be helpful for the practical implementation of the main aims of key conservation agreements and thus will make important contributions to biodiversity protection.

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Author:Claudia Janina Wittwer
Place of publication:Frankfurt am Main
Referee:Marco Thines, Sven KlimpelORCiDGND
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2019/11/05
Year of first Publication:2019
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2019/10/23
Release Date:2019/11/08
Tag:Aphanomyces astaci; environmental DNA; freshwater crayfish
Page Number:109
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Sammlung Biologie / Biologische Hochschulschriften (Goethe-Universität)
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht