DNA analysis of sediment provides early warning of sea level rise

18 March 2013

Many Kakadu wetlands are at threat from saltwater intrusion, which could dramatically impact on biodiversity, Indigenous food sources and tourism in Kakadu National Park. imgp0137

Sediment macro-invertebrate and bacteria communities show impacts from saltwater intrusion, long before changes are seen in the plant and animal communities on the surface.

Northern Australia hub researchers from CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Charles Darwin University are using a DNA-based approach to provide an early warning system of changes to biodiversity.

A single sample can identify thousands of macro-invertebrate and bacteria species, making it the most rapid and cost-effective method to provide a comprehensive picture of biodiversity.

With this repository of information about Kakadu sediment, Park managers will have the opportunity to intervene with structural solutions to keep saltwater out of high priority areas, and to detect any other changes in ecosystem health and water quality over time.

The late monsoon is delaying field work, with sampling in the South Alligator rivers region now planned for May.

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