Environmental DNA as a tool for monitoring Antarctic vertebrates

Lucy Howell, Michelle LaRue, Sarah P. Flanagan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Antarctica is home to numerous species that are vulnerable to environmental change, and assessing species responses requires long-term monitoring. However, Antarctica’s extreme nature presents limitations to conducting the type of long-term or broad-scale studies necessary for understanding changes in community composition. In this paper, we evaluate the potential for the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) methods in expanding scientific research efforts for biodiversity monitoring and conservation genetics in Antarctica. Through a systematic literature review, we identify that most Antarctic eDNA studies have focused on microbial metabarcoding using samples from soil, sediment, snow, and water. Few eDNA studies in Antarctica have focused on vertebrate biodiversity or population genetics, but we highlight several examples that have effectively and creatively used eDNA to study vertebrates. We highlight the potential for the use of portable sequencing technologies in the future of Antarctic eDNA research. We conclude that eDNA could be a valuable tool for researchers in their efforts to assess, monitor, and conserve biodiversity in the Antarctic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNew Zealand Journal of Zoology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the mana whenua, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, on whose lands the work for this review took place. This work was inspired by the Postgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies and as such we appreciate the support from Antarctica New Zealand, Gateway Antarctica, Christchurch City Council, and New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (Grant number 2019-3-2).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Royal Society of New Zealand.


  • biodiversity
  • conservation genetics
  • eDNA
  • environmental sampling
  • genetic tools
  • polar
  • remote sampling
  • Southern Ocean


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