Due to its location, the Chagos Archipelago is likely to be connected via planktonic dispersion to other shallow reefs in the Indian Ocean and act as an important ‘stepping-stone’ for marine organisms.
eDNA techniques have the potential to revolutionise the future of marine monitoring because collection of samples is non-invasive, requires minimal pre-training, and overcomes the bottleneck of laborious taxonomic identification of small or microscopic organisms. eDNA makes use of a representative environmental sample, e.g. seawater, that contains DNA derived from ambient communities. DNA from across all domains of life can be identified using metabarcoding, by applying universal PCR primers to amplify DNA from a range of organisms.
eDNA samples have been collected for this project from over 30 sites across the Archipelago, representing both lagoonal and seaward facing reefs. With this data, we can describe the broad taxonomic diversity present throughout the archipelago over multiple years and atolls and inform on suitable methods for future monitoring in the area.
The Chagos archipelago represents a perfect opportunity to test and apply eDNA metabarcoding methods to better describe taxonomic diversity over space and time in an important, but challenging to reach system