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    California's vernal pools are declining ecosystems that support valuable native plant and animal diversity. Vernal pool branchiopods are particularly at risk from vernal pool habitat loss and conservation efforts have targeted their long-term protection through the establishment of preserves and conservation banks. These conservation strategies require repeated, perpetual monitoring of preserved habitat, which is currently carried out through dip-net surveys and visual identification of specimens. Dip-netting may be destructive and frequently requires some sacrifice of protected species. Environmental DNA offers a new, modern method to monitor many protected freshwater organisms. We designed qPCR-based species-specific assays for four of California's vernal pool branchiopods: The Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp Branchinecta lynchi (BRLY), the Midvalley Fairy Shrimp Branchinecta mesovallensis (BRME), and the Conservancy Fairy Shrimp Branchinecta conservatio (BRCO), and the Vernal Pool Tadpole Shrimp Lepidurus packardi (LEPA). We tested these assays using eDNA sampling protocols alongside traditional dip-net surveys to assess their viability as an alternative method to monitor vernal pool branchiopods. Based on occupancy modeling, each of our assays achieved a 95% or higher detection rate when using optimized sampling protocols.


    Shannon Rose C Kieran, Joshua M Hull, Amanda J Finger. Environmental DNA sampling provides new management strategies for vernal pool branchiopods in California. PloS one. 2021;16(4):e0243338

    PMID: 33830990

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