The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) in biodiversity assessments offers a step-change in sensitivity, throughput and simultaneous measures of ecosystem diversity and function. There remains, however, a need to examine eDNA persistence in the wild through simultaneous temporal measures of eDNA and biota. Here, we use metabarcoding of two markers of different lengths, derived from an annual time series of aqueous lake eDNA to examine temporal shifts in ecosystem biodiversity and in an ecologically important group of macroinvertebrates (Diptera: Chironomidae). The analyses allow different levels of detection and validation of taxon richness and community composition (β-diversity) through time, with shorter eDNA fragments dominating the eDNA community. Comparisons between eDNA, community DNA, taxonomy and UK species abundance data further show significant relationships between diversity estimates derived across the disparate methodologies. Our results reveal the temporal dynamics of eDNA and validate the utility of eDNA metabarcoding for tracking seasonal diversity at the ecosystem scale.
DNA from macrobial taxa can be extracted from environmental samples, including water, and be used to assess biodiversity in the region. Here, Bista and colleagues show that temporal shifts in the biodiversity of a lake invertebrate community can be detected by analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA).