Unlocking foraminiferal genetic diversity on estuarine mudflats with eDNA metabarcoding

Sci Total Environ. 2023 Dec 1:902:165983. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.165983. Epub 2023 Aug 4.


Environmental biomonitoring is a prerequisite for efficient evaluation and remediation of ecosystem degradation due to anthropogenic pressure or climate change. Estuaries are key habitats subject to multiple anthropogenic and natural stressors. Due to these multiple stressors, the detection of anthropogenic pressure is challenging. The fact that abundant natural stressors often lead to negative quality assessments has been coined the "estuarine quality paradox". To solve this issue, the application of molecular approaches with successful bioindicators like foraminifera is promising. However, sampling protocols, molecular procedures and data analyses need to be validated before such tools can be routinely applied. We conducted an environmental DNA survey of estuarine mudflats along the French Atlantic coast, using a metabarcoding approach targeting foraminifera. Our results demonstrate that estuarine environments have only a few active OTUs dominating the community composition and a large stock of dormant or propagule stages. This last genetic diversity components constitute an important reservoir, with different species which can potentially develop in response to the temporal variability of the multiple stressors. In fact, different OTUs were dominant in the studied estuaries. Our statistical model shows that the physical and chemical characteristics of the sediment and the climatic conditions explain only 43 % of the community composition variance. This suggests that other, less easily quantifiable factors, such as the history and use of the estuaries or the ecological drift could play an important role as well. Environmental DNA biomonitoring opens new perspectives to better characterize the genetic diversity in estuaries.

Keywords: Environmental DNA; Foraminifera; High-throughput sequencing; Mudflat; Propagules.

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • DNA, Environmental*
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Foraminifera* / genetics
  • Genetic Variation


  • DNA, Environmental