The western United States will soon have its first aquatic species map thanks to the joint efforts of the scientists from the U.S. Forest Service.
More precisely, it looks like the biodiversity map will be available to the public next year. The wildlife biologists named it the Aquatic Environmental DNA Atlas, and it is the largest project of its kind.
According to the lead researcher Dan Isaak, the map will have multiple functions. In other words, the scientists will use it to establish which areas need more funding and which species are endangered.
The aquatic species map will be in digital format making the job much easier for the researchers. This way, they will be able to collect valuable data which will be used to develop efficient conservation strategies.
In addition, the officials will be able to take snapshots in various sites to track the progress of their projects and to observe how the ecosystem changes in time. However, this large-scale initiative will require the help of citizens who can volunteer to collect samples from multiple locations and send them to the lab for testing.
The aquatic species map will include all species of insects, fish, and mammals, such as the river otter and the endangered Chinook and Coho salmon. The atlas functions on a new technology which can identify every creature in a river just by analyzing the DNA from a single water sample.
Besides its tracking purpose, the map will also represent a reliable asset against many invasive species which have affected several ecosystems throughout the country. Therefore, scientists will be able to identify them because their DNA is registered in the map’s database.
According to Michael Schwartz, the director of the National Genomics Center, the researchers need a year until they can apply this revolutionary technology to spot more than one species after just one test taken from a single water sample.
This project was inspired from the Bull Trout Environmental DNA Atlas which involved five states: Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Isaak underlined that the Bull Trout Atlas played a major role in the recovery of that endangered species.
Schwartz says that when the aquatic species map becomes available, people will be able to use their smartphones to scan many river sections and find out what species live there.
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