The installation of marine energy systems may affect marine environments, and by extension, marine fish communities. Therefore, biomonitoring is an integral part of assessing impacts on species. Environmental DNA (eDNA) provides a noninvasive alternative to conventional monitoring surveys and the possibility of a more accurate assessment of species richness. Yet, its cost efficiency compared to traditional methods of monitoring is relatively unknown, especially when applied to monitoring around tidal, wave, and offshore wind energy installations.
For this study, 202 peer-reviewed journal articles were dissected to inventory the diversity of supplies used for collecting and processing eDNA samples and to compile the average cost of eDNA surveys. Information collected included the type, volume, and brand of containers used in sampling; material, size, and brand of filters; and extraction methods. Cost information was gathered for the most common supplies, and a total cost was estimated for a hypothetical eDNA survey in Sequim Bay, WA, to compare with traditional methods of surveying such as beach seining and scuba surveys.
The results showed a higher-than-expected diversity of supplies to collect and process eDNA samples. The most common supplies were 1 L Nalgene bottles at an average cost of 7.96 USD for collecting samples, 0.45 μm glass fiber Merck Millipore filters at an average cost of 1.51 USD for filtering samples, and the Qiagen DNeasy Blood and Tissue kit at 3.54 USD per sample for extracting DNA. When compared to beach seine and scuba surveys, eDNA surveys undertaken by senior researchers are less expensive for both initial surveys with all new materials as well as for follow-up surveys reusing some of the supplies. However, when surveys are done solely by students, eDNA surveys are more expensive than scuba surveys when no prior supplies are available and more than both beach seine and scuba surveys for follow-up surveys reusing supplies.
In a professional sphere, where surveys are less often conducted by teams of students only, eDNA surveys are an effective and less-costly alternative to conventional methods. We anticipate that the development and refinement of eDNA methodology will continue to decrease surveying costs.