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Spatio-temporal monitoring of lake fish spawning activity using environmental DNA metabarcoding

Di Muri, Cristina; Lawson Handley, Lori; Bean, Colin W.; Benucci, Marco; Harper, Lynsey R.; James, Ben; Li, Jianlong; Winfield, Ian J.; Hänfling, Bernd


Cristina Di Muri

Colin W. Bean

Marco Benucci

Lynsey R. Harper

Ben James

Jianlong Li

Ian J. Winfield

Bernd Hänfling


Determining the timing and location of fish reproductive events is crucial for the implementation of correct management and conservation schemes. Conventional methods used to monitor these events are often unable to assess the spawning activity directly or can be invasive and therefore problematic. This is especially the case when threatened fish populations are the study subject, such as the Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus L.) populations in Windermere (Cumbria, UK). Arctic charr populations have been studied in this lake since the 1940s, and the locations and characteristics of spawning grounds have been described in detail using techniques such as hydroacoustics, as well as physical and visual surveys of the lake bottom. Here, in conjunction with established netting surveys, we added an environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding approach to assess the spatial distribution of Arctic charr in the lake throughout the year to test whether this tool could allow us to identify spawning locations and activity. Sampling was carried out between October 2017 and July 2018 at three locations in the lake, covering putative and known spawning sites. eDNA metabarcoding provided accurate spatial and temporal characterization of Arctic charr spawning events. Peaks of Arctic charr relative read counts from eDNA metabarcoding were observed during the spawning season and at specific locations of both putative and known spawning sites. Net catches of mature Arctic charr individuals confirmed the association between the Arctic charr spawning activity and the peaks of eDNA metabarcoding relative read counts. This study demonstrates the ability of eDNA metabarcoding to effectively and efficiently characterize the spatial and temporal nature of fish spawning in lentic systems.


Di Muri, C., Lawson Handley, L., Bean, C. W., Benucci, M., Harper, L. R., James, B., …Hänfling, B. (2023). Spatio-temporal monitoring of lake fish spawning activity using environmental DNA metabarcoding. Environmental DNA, 5(5), 849-860.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 30, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 26, 2022
Publication Date Sep 1, 2023
Deposit Date Apr 17, 2024
Publicly Available Date Apr 23, 2024
Journal Environmental DNA
Print ISSN 2637-4943
Electronic ISSN 2637-4943
Publisher Wiley Open Access
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 5
Pages 849-860
Keywords Arctic charr; Breeding grounds; Conservation; Freshwaters; Lentic systems; Salvelinus alpinus
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Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Authors. Environmental DNA published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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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