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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

Environmental DNA and biodiversity Seminar

Pierre Taberlet
5 June 2013
Room 1057 (Leture Theatre B), Building 44, Highfield Campus, University of Southampton, University Road, SO17 1BJ

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Professor Mary Edwards at M.E. .

Event details

A Geography and Environment, Institute for Life Science and the Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences joint seminar

Ecosystems across the globe are threatened by climate change and human activities. New rapid survey approaches for monitoring biodiversity would greatly advance assessment and understanding of these threats. Taking advantage of next‐generation DNA sequencing, we tested an approach we call DNA metabarcoding: high‐throughput and simultaneous taxa identification based on a very short (usually less than 100 base pairs) but informative DNA fragment. Short DNA fragments allow the use of degraded DNA from environmental samples. We tested in three steps whether degraded DNA from dead material in soil has the potential of efficiently assessing biodiversity in different biomes. First, soil DNA from eight boreal plant communities located in two different vegetation types (meadow and heath) was amplified. Plant diversity detected from boreal soil was highly consistent with plant taxonomic and growth form diversity estimated from conventional above‐ground surveys. Second, we assessed DNA persistence using samples from formerly cultivated soils in temperate environments. We found that the number of crop DNA sequences retrieved strongly varied with years since last cultivation, and crop sequences were absent from nearby, uncultivated plots. Third, we assessed the universal applicability of DNA metabarcoding using soil samples from tropical environments. We collected 361 samples of surface soil (0‐10 cm depth), on 5 x 5 m grid system. Extracellular DNA was extracted in the Nouragues field station within a few hours after collection. DNA amplifications were carried out using several metabarcodes targeting all eukaryotes, plants, and termites. The results obtained with the eukaryote metabarcode show that plant, fungi, metazoa, and unicellular organisms represent 6%, 41%, 47%, and 6% of the sequence reads, respectively. These results open unprecedented opportunities for large‐scale DNA‐based biodiversity studies across a range of taxonomic groups using standardized metabarcoding approaches.

Speaker information

Pierre Taberlet, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique “Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine”. Pierre Taberlet studied biology and geology at the University Joseph Fourier of Grenoble (France) from 1972 to 1976. He was a biology teacher in a high school from 1978 to 1989. He obtained a PhD in 1992 from the University Joseph Fourier, and the Habilitation in 1993. He joined the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in 1994. He has worked in the “Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine” (Grenoble), first as junior scientist (1994‐1998), and then as senior scientist (1999‐2013). He was the head of this laboratory from 1999 to 2010. For the past 10 years, his research team has been working in the field of molecular ecology, with emphasis on the phylogeography of wild animals and plants, on conservation genetics (development of noninvasive sampling), and on domestication of goats and sheep. More recently, he is involved in the study of the genetic basis of local adaptation based using a landscape genomics approach, and on biodiversity assessment using environmental samples (soil, water) and new sequencing technologies. He is author or co‐author of more than 180 scientific publications in peer‐reviewed journals. He is currently senior editor of Molecular Ecology, and member of the editorial board of Conservation Genetics and of Plant Ecology & Diversity. He received the Molecular Ecology Prize in 2007.

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