Monitoring seasonal distribution of an endangered anadromous sturgeon in a large river using environmental DNA
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Monitoring dynamic distribution is crucial to conservation management of anadromous sturgeons, but traditional survey methods are less efficient for low-density populations in a large river. Natural propagation of Chinese sturgeon has been monitored annually mainly at the spawning ground using netting for eggs and hydroacoustics for broodstock. However, absence of spawning was observed sporadically in recent years, indicating further crises for the declining population. We analyzed eDNA of water samples collected from 24 sites across 1360 km of the migratory route of anadromous Chinese sturgeon in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Chinese sturgeon was detected at 9 sites during the spawning season and 14 sites after the spawning season. We found that positive eDNA detection rates remained constant in the middle reaches but dramatically changed in the lower reaches, reflecting seasonal migration pattern of Chinese sturgeon. Invasive sturgeons were detected in the river, indicating their possible escape from aquaculture facilities. This study established a protocol for the use of eDNA to monitor distribution of Chinese sturgeon and could be valuable in making better policies for the conservation of this endangered species.
KeywordseDNA Chinese sturgeon Yangtze River Species detection Spawning migration Conservation program
We are grateful to the staff of Hydrology Bureau of Changjiang Water Resources Commission for their help in sampling. We thank Shan Yan for assistance in laboratory. We also thank Professor Guoqing Lu for revision suggestions.
The work was supported by research grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51609158) and China Three Gorges Corporation (SXSN/3735).
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