Effects of Sampling Effort on Biodiversity Patterns Estimated From Environmental DNA Metabarcoding Surveys

Sci Rep. 2018 Jun 11;8(1):8843. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27048-2.


Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding can greatly enhance our understanding of global biodiversity and our ability to detect rare or cryptic species. However, sampling effort must be considered when interpreting results from these surveys. We explored how sampling effort influenced biodiversity patterns and nonindigenous species (NIS) detection in an eDNA metabarcoding survey of four commercial ports. Overall, we captured sequences from 18 metazoan phyla with minimal differences in taxonomic coverage between 18 S and COI primer sets. While community dissimilarity patterns were consistent across primers and sampling effort, richness patterns were not, suggesting that richness estimates are extremely sensitive to primer choice and sampling effort. The survey detected 64 potential NIS, with COI identifying more known NIS from port checklists but 18 S identifying more operational taxonomic units shared between three or more ports that represent un-recorded potential NIS. Overall, we conclude that eDNA metabarcoding surveys can reveal global similarity patterns among ports across a broad array of taxa and can also detect potential NIS in these key habitats. However, richness estimates and species assignments require caution. Based on results of this study, we make several recommendations for port eDNA sampling design and suggest several areas for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA / isolation & purification*
  • DNA Barcoding, Taxonomic / methods*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Environment*
  • Metagenomics / methods*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • DNA
  • Electron Transport Complex IV