Natural England commission a range of reports from external contractors to provide evidence and advice to assist us in delivering our duties. The views in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Natural England.
DNA based applications have the potential to significantly change how we monitor biodiversity and which species and taxa we monitor. These techniques may provide cheaper alternatives to existing species monitoring, an ability to detect species that we do not currently monitor effectively and the potential to develop new measures of habitat and ecosystem quality.
Natural England has been supporting the development of DNA techniques for a number of years. The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) to determine the presence or absence of great crested newts in ponds is now a standard tool for developers and consultants.
There are still significant limitations to the use of this technology in others areas and in 2017/18 Natural England worked with NatureMetrics to prove the concept of using eDNA for monitoring migratory fish species in the Rivers Wye, Froome and Tamar. The results show huge potential for the use of eDNA to monitor the presence of not only migratory fish, but whole fish assemblages.