Environmental DNA Time Series in Ecology

Trends Ecol Evol. 2018 Dec;33(12):945-957. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2018.09.003. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


Ecological communities change in time and space, but long-term dynamics at the century-to-millennia scale are poorly documented due to lack of relevant data sets. Nevertheless, understanding long-term dynamics is important for explaining present-day biodiversity patterns and placing conservation goals in a historical context. Here, we use recent examples and new perspectives to highlight how environmental DNA (eDNA) is starting to provide a powerful new source of temporal data for research questions that have so far been overlooked, by helping to resolve the ecological dynamics of populations, communities, and ecosystems over hundreds to thousands of years. We give examples of hypotheses that may be addressed by temporal eDNA biodiversity data, discuss possible research directions, and outline related challenges.

Keywords: biodiversity dynamics; eDNA metabarcoding; global change; historic data; human impact; temporal ecology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity*
  • DNA / analysis*
  • Ecology
  • Ecosystem
  • Environment*


  • DNA