Although environmental DNA (eDNA) has been used to infer the presence of rare aquatic species, many facets of this technique remain unresolved. In particular, the relationship between eDNA and fish distribution is not known. We examined the relationship between the distribution of fish and their eDNA (detection rate and concentration) in a lake. A quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay for a region within the cytochrome b gene of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio or 'carp'), an ubiquitous invasive fish, was developed and used to measure eDNA in Lake Staring (MN, USA), in which both the density of carp and their distribution have been closely monitored for several years. Surface water, sub-surface water, and sediment were sampled from 22 locations in the lake, including areas frequently used by carp. In water, areas of high carp use had a higher rate of detection and concentration of eDNA, but there was no effect of fish use on sediment eDNA. The detection rate and concentration of eDNA in surface and sub-surface water were not significantly different (p≥0.5), indicating that eDNA did not accumulate in surface water. The detection rate followed the trend: high-use water > low-use water > sediment. The concentration of eDNA in sediment samples that were above the limit of detection were several orders of magnitude greater than water on a per mass basis, but a poor limit of detection led to low detection rates. The patchy distribution of eDNA in the water of our study lake suggests that the mechanisms that remove eDNA from the water column, such as decay and sedimentation, are rapid. Taken together, these results indicate that effective eDNA sampling methods should be informed by fish distribution, as eDNA concentration was shown to vary dramatically between samples taken less than 100 m apart.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2014 Eichmiller et al.