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Ecology and Evolution






Wiley Open Access

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Information on the distribution of multiple species in a common landscape is fundamental to effective conservation and management. However, distribution data are expensive to obtain and often limited to high-profile species in a system. A recently developed technique, environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling, has been shown to be more sensitive than traditional detection methods for many aquatic species. A second and perhaps underappreciated benefit of eDNA sampling is that a sample originally collected to determine the presence of one species can be re-analyzed to detect additional taxa without additional field effort. We developed an eDNA assay for the western pearlshell mussel (Margaritifera falcata) and evaluated its effectiveness by analyzing previously collected eDNA samples that were annotated with information including sample location and deposited in a central repository. The eDNA samples were initially collected to determine habitat occupancy by nonbenthic fish species at sites that were in the vicinity of locations recently occupied by western pearlshell. These repurposed eDNA samples produced results congruent with historical western pearlshell surveys and permitted a more precise delineation of the extent of local populations. That a sampling protocol designed to detect fish was also successful for detecting a freshwater mussel suggests that rapidly accumulating collections of eDNA samples can be repurposed to enhance the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of aquatic biodiversity monitoring.

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