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Restoration monitoring needs effective tools to assess ecosystem recovery in order to improve restoration methods and establish trajectories. Our research evaluates eDNA metabarcoding as a potential monitoring tool that can assess diversity and indicate whether ecosystems are on a trajectory indicating recovery. This research highlights that changes in soil microbial communities are not consistent between locations or taxonomic group (fungi or bacteria), but they can show patterns of recovery in certain systems. We also demonstrated the use of a novel substrate (pooled scat) to detect bird and mammal diversity, and showed the usefulness of this method was dependent on scat detectability. DNA metabarcoding enabled rapid survey of invertebrate communities which, even with poor taxonomic identification, demonstrated strong signal of community recovery over time. Additionally, DNA metabarcoding can be used to evaluate functional aspects of ecosystem recovery by detecting not only invertebrate communities, but also the interactions between groups of organisms such as invertebrates and plants. The wide-scale testing across different ecosystems revealed the importance of environment as a filter for suitable terrestrial eDNA substrates. The management implications of this finding are that eDNA surveys may require site-calibration before being applied to restoration monitoring. As a result, it may be challenging to standardize terrestrial eDNA surveys for multiple ecosystems, unlike in aquatic systems. Despite the limitations, this thesis demonstrates the potential of this technique to rapidly assess complex, biodiverse systems; and establish restoration trajectories that illustrate ecosystem recovery towards reference conditions.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program