Biomonitoring 2.0: a new paradigm in ecosystem assessment made possible by next-generation DNA sequencing

Authors

  • DONALD J. BAIRD,

    1. Department of Biology, Environment Canada @ Canadian Rivers Institute, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada E3B 6E1
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  • MEHRDAD HAJIBABAEI

    1. Department of Integrative Biology, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1
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Donald J. Baird, Fax: +1 506 452 6271; E-mail: djbaird@unb.ca

Abstract

Biological monitoring has failed to develop from simple binary assessment outcomes of the impacted/unimpacted type, towards more diagnostic frameworks, despite significant scientific effort over the past fifty years. It is our assertion that this is largely because of the limited information content of biological samples processed by traditional morphology-based taxonomy, which is a slow, imprecise process, focused on restricted groups of organisms. We envision a new paradigm in ecosystem assessment, which we refer to as ‘Biomonitoring 2.0’. This new schema employs DNA-based identification of taxa, coupled with high-throughput DNA sequencing on next-generation sequencing platforms. We discuss the transformational nature of DNA-based approaches in biodiversity discovery and ecosystem assessment and outline a path forward for their future widespread application.

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