Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Environmental DNA metabarcoding provides enhanced detection of the European eel Anguilla anguilla and fish community structure in pumped river catchments

Griffiths, Nathan P.; Bolland, Jonathan D.; Wright, Rosalind M.; Murphy, Leona A.; Donnelly, Robert K.; Watson, Hayley V.; Hänfling, Bernd


Nathan P. Griffiths

Rosalind M. Wright

Leona A. Murphy

Robert K. Donnelly

Hayley V. Watson

Bernd Hänfling


© 2020 Fisheries Society of the British Isles The European eel Anguilla anguilla (eel hereafter) is critically endangered and has a catadromous life cycle, which means adult eels that live in pumped catchments must pass through pumps during their downstream spawning migration. Policy makers are currently lacking detailed site-by-site eel distribution information to estimate the overall impact of individual pumping stations on eel escapement, and as such lack the data to enable informed prioritisation of pumping station management and targeted mitigation. This study investigated whether environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding can provide increased detection sensitivity for eel and fish community structure in highly regulated pumped catchments, when compared directly to current standard practice fish survey protocols (seine netting/electric fishing). Eels were detected in 14 of 17 sites (82.4%) using eDNA metabarcoding in contrast to 3 of 17 sites (17.6%) using traditional catch methods. In addition, when using eDNA monitoring, species richness was higher in 16 of 17 sites (94.1%), and site occupancy was greater than or equal to traditional methods for 23 of 26 of the fish species detected (88.5%). Although eDNA methods presented significantly higher average species richness and species site occupancy overall, eDNA and catch methods were positively correlated in terms of species richness and site occupancy. It was therefore found that eDNA metabarcoding was a high-sensitivity method for detecting eels in pumped catchments while also increasing the detection of overall fish community structure compared to traditional catch methods. In addition, this study highlights how eDNA monitoring is especially suited to increase the detection of particular species, with traditional methods sufficient for others. This high sensitivity, coupled with the ability to sample multiple sites in a short time frame, suggests that eDNA metabarcoding workflows could be invaluable tools when prioritising pumping station management.


Griffiths, N. P., Bolland, J. D., Wright, R. M., Murphy, L. A., Donnelly, R. K., Watson, H. V., & Hänfling, B. (2020). Environmental DNA metabarcoding provides enhanced detection of the European eel Anguilla anguilla and fish community structure in pumped river catchments. Journal of fish biology, 97, 1375-1384.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 12, 2020
Online Publication Date Aug 15, 2020
Publication Date 2020-08
Deposit Date Nov 18, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 19, 2020
Journal Journal of Fish Biology
Print ISSN 0022-1112
Electronic ISSN 1095-8649
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 97
Pages 1375-1384
Public URL
Related Public URLs


You might also like

Downloadable Citations