Anglo American & FBA: eDNA trial supports biodiversity assessment in the Fitzroy

Anglo American is working with the Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) to improve the health of the Fitzroy Basin’s waterways through trialling a new technology for biodiversity assessments called eDNA sampling.

eDNA works by detecting microscopic amounts of DNA which animals leave behind in the water, like skin or faeces. Using this data, scientists can examine the types of animals which interact with the rivers and creeks without actually seeing them.

Anglo American water specialist, Tim Kendrick, said the eDNA technology has advantages over some traditional methods of undertaking biodiversity studies.

“eDNA is a safer, less intrusive and cost-effective approach to qualitatively determining the biodiversity in our local and regional waterways because we don’t need to capture or sight the animals that inhabit an area – we can simply look at the DNA material that the different animals leave behind,” Tim said.

“By targeting sampling programs on waterways it allows us to assess a broader area for a wider variety of species as these act as natural ‘funnels’ for DNA material so we can detect the presence of rare or hard-to-find species. eDNA has a number of advantages over traditional qualitative survey methods which allows us to focus the efforts of our biodiversity specialists.”

Through the trial, Anglo American and FBA were able to identify 92 different kinds of animals using eDNA, including fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians across the Fitzroy Basin.

The survey identified the presence of several threatened species, such as the Greater Glider, Koala, White-throated Snapping Turtle, Fitzroy River Turtle, and Silver Perch, as well as confirming the presence of eight introduced species including the Goldfish, European Fox, and Cane Toad.

The results of the eDNA trial show that this innovative assessment tool offers great potential to detect species that are difficult and time-consuming to find, such as rare, cryptic species in remote areas. It is an exciting tool which could also increase the ability to identify and respond to outbreaks of pest species.

Overall, eDNA is a promising new technology for studying animals and their habitats. It allows scientists to learn more about the animals living in the Fitzroy Basin and make better decisions about how to protect them.