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Development and validation of a biomonitoring tool to assess the impacts of salmon aquaculture on marine benthic communities using metabarcoding



Salmon aquaculture causes organic enrichment of surrounding sediments which has been shown to affect biodiversity and biomass of benthic fauna associated with sediment chemical changes. Environmental impact assessments have generally focused on changes in macro-invertebrate communities based on manual taxonomic identification, requiring a substantial investment of labour and taxonomic expertise, or have relied on abiotic proxies like sulfide measurements with uncertain accuracy and reliability. Next-generation DNA sequencing methods offer an efficient and reliable lower-cost alternative by cataloging the diversity and abundance of benthic communities through metabarcoding of environmental DNA (eDNA). This approach has been successful at identifying environmental impacts associated with farming activities in Scotland, New Zealand and Norway. This project will develop a new eDNA-based metabarcoding tool for assessing the impacts of farming on benthic metazoan and foraminiferan communities in BC and will validate its use for ongoing biomonitoring through comparisons with existing methods. This research will also address existing knowledge gaps about the impacts of salmon farming on benthic metazoans and foram communities and enrich DNA barcode databases for these taxa from BC inshore waters.





Program Name

Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)


2016 - 2019

Principal Investigator

Cathryn Abbott
Research Scientist, Pacific Biological Station

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