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Temporal and spatial variation in distribution of fish environmental DNA in England’s largest lake

Lawson Handley, Lori; Read, Daniel S.; Winfield, Ian J.; Kimbell, Helen; Johnson, Harriet; Li, Jianlong; Hahn, Christoph; Blackman, Rosetta; Wilcox, Rose; Donnelly, Rob; Szitenberg, Amir; Hänfling, Bernd


Daniel S. Read

Ian J. Winfield

Helen Kimbell

Harriet Johnson

Jianlong Li

Christoph Hahn

Rosetta Blackman

Rose Wilcox

Rob Donnelly

Amir Szitenberg

Bernd Hänfling


Environmental DNA offers great potential as a biodiversity monitoring tool. Previous work has demonstrated that eDNA metabarcoding provides reliable information for lake fish monitoring, but important questions remain about temporal and spatial repeatability, which is critical for understanding the ecology of eDNA and developing effective sampling strategies. Here, we carried out comprehensive spatial sampling of England's largest lake, Windermere, during summer and winter to 1) examine repeatability of the method, 2) compare eDNA results with contemporary gill-net survey data, 3) test the hypothesis of greater spatial structure of eDNA in summer compared to winter due to differences in water mixing between seasons, and 4) compare the effectiveness of shore and offshore sampling for species detection. We find broad consistency between results from three sampling events in terms of species detection and abundance, with eDNA detecting more species than established methods and being significantly correlated to rank abundance determined by long-term data. As predicted, spatial structure was much greater in the summer, reflecting less mixing of eDNA than in the winter. For example Arctic charr, a deep-water species, was only detected in deep, mid-lake samples in the summer, while littoral or benthic species such as minnow and stickleback were more frequently detected in shore samples. By contrast in winter, the eDNA of these species was more uniformly distributed. This has important implications for design of sampling campaigns, for example, deep-water species could be missed and littoral/benthic species over-represented by focusing exclusively on shoreline samples collected in the summer.


Lawson Handley, L., Read, D. S., Winfield, I. J., Kimbell, H., Johnson, H., Li, J., …Hänfling, B. (2019). Temporal and spatial variation in distribution of fish environmental DNA in England’s largest lake. Environmental DNA, 1(1), 26-39.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 21, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 15, 2019
Publication Date Jun 3, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 17, 2019
Journal Environmental DNA
Print ISSN 2637-4943
Electronic ISSN 2637-4943
Publisher Wiley Open Access
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1
Issue 1
Pages 26-39
Keywords eDNA; Fish; Lakes; Metabarcoding; Monitoring
Public URL
Publisher URL


Article (1.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
&copy; 2019 The Authors. Environmental DNA published by John Wiley &amp; Sons Ltd<br /> <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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