The mighty rivers of the world have largely hidden their biodiversity from the outside world. The forbidden reaches of the Amazon, the Congo, and the Mekong have concealed many life forms inside their turbid and swirling currents. But a new DNA project could reveal many of its secrets and identify them so that they can be protected.
The varied species hidden in these rivers have been unknown to scientists till now. But an initiative aims to identify and describe the intricate forms of life hidden in these giant freshwater ecosystems in different continents of the world. The new DNA technology will make it possible to do that in large numbers with a cost of around £10 million, a modest expense gave the scale of the project. The DNA Project will be expensive but scientists are hopeful of making an impact.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has tied up with NatureMetrics, a UK based organization that specializes in environmental DNA, to collect and analyze water samples in their thousand from river systems such as the Niger, and the Ganges to identify the species of different fishes, amphibians, birds, and animals which live in or around the rivers and are dependent on it.
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Human greed and intractability have destroyed thousands and put many more species in danger of extinction just in the past 50 years. The freshwater ecosystem has been hit the hardest as they have been closest to human habitation. But efforts by conservationists have come up against an absence of reliable information on the living forms that inhabit this ecosystem. The $15 million DNA project called the eBioAtlas program will concentrate on areas more in danger from human habitation and climate crisis. The Project will help fill big gaps in scientific data and arrive at biodiversity baselines through analyzing the genetic material floating in the rivers. The project will start research work in Tanzania’s Malagarasi river.
The DNA project analyzes the genetic profiling of mucus, feces, and other substances shed by organisms to help establish their presence in the ecosystem. This DNA technique is in use in the UK to identify and study the habitation of the great crested newt which is a protected species.
30,000 such samples will be collected over 3 years with the private sector also pitching in. The samples will be passed through a simple filtering kit. Each kit for the DNA project costs $200 and helps provide around 200,000 sequences that can be then analyzed.