DNA test to support global atlas of freshwater life

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and NatureMetrics are to work in partnership to create a global atlas assessing the state of aquatic life in rivers and wetlands.

According to the two, the eBioAtlas project will support conservation efforts and unlock business investment for nature protection. It aims to fill gaps in existing knowledge by building a databank informing global policy intended to reverse the decline in biodiversity.

The databank will interface with national and global environmental databases and make data freely available for research establishments and conservation groups.

The first three years of the project will be devoted to the collection of 30,000 water samples, in order to assess environmental data such as DNA left by fish, birds, amphibians and land animals. This data will then be analysed to identify the range and distribution of species in each ecosystem. The work will feature testing kits supplied by NatureMetrics, which can be used by non-specialists.

The partners say that action to protect the world’s rivers and wetlands is urgently needed, but knowledge about the status and distribution of species is limited. Obtaining a clearer picture is vital in order to obtain funding for conservation projects, target action effectively and measuring progress.

Footprint Coalition, founded by actor/entrepreneur Robert Downey Jr., will fund one of the first projects, examining the Malagarasi-Moyovosi wetland in Tanzania.