The ecology of environmental DNA and implications for conservation genetics

Matthew Barnes, Cameron R Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental DNA (eDNA) refers to the genetic material that can be extracted from bulk environmental samples such as soil, water, and even air. The rapidly expanding study of eDNA has generated unprecedented ability to detect species and conduct genetic analyses for conservation, management, and research, particularly in scenarios where collection of whole organisms is impractical or impossible. While the number of studies demonstrating successful eDNA detection has increased rapidly in recent years, less research has explored the “ecology” of eDNA—myriad interactions between extraorganismal genetic material and its environment—and its influence on eDNA detection, quantification, analysis, and application to conservation and research. Here, we outline a framework for understanding the ecology of eDNA, including the origin, state, transport, and fate of extraorganismal genetic material. Using this framework, we review and synthesize the findings of eDNA studies from diverse environmen
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalConservation Genetics
StatePublished - Sep 2015


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