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A liter of water can help scientists track hundreds of marine species

2 months ago

Photo by Sneha Chandrashekar on Unsplash

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As climate change heats the planet's seas, many marine species are permanently migrating in search of cooler habitats. These migrants often stray beyond the fixed borders of protected areas.

UNESCO is rolling out a massive citizen science project to track where species are moving, using the ground-breaking concept of environmental DNA.

How much are species moving?

Oceans are particularly vulnerable to climate change, with cold-water animals moving north and invasive species thriving in new areas as ecosystems are disrupted. But scientists have a weapon in their arsenal - environmental DNA.

What is environmental DNA?

When a fish moves through the water, it sheds bits of itself. Scientists can use this DNA to tell that the fish was there, even if it swam away long ago.

The data will be collected in collaboration with local schools and published by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), which is maintained by a worldwide network of thousands of scientists.

The eDNA program in Western Australia's Shark Bay was launched in time for COP15, the UN's global biodiversity conference. Its mission is to maintain the natural world.
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Vocabulary
climate change: the long-term changes in average weather patterns around the world
migrate: to move from one place to another, usually over long distances and often seasonally
protected areas: areas of land or water that are set aside for conservation or recreation and are managed to protect the environment
citizen science: research projects in which members of the public are invited to collect or analyze data, often with the help of technology
environmental DNA: DNA from an organism that can be used to identify it, even if the organism is no longer present
invasive species: A species of plant or animal that is not native to an area and that spreads and causes damage to the environment
COP15: The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
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Source: https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/12/07/scientists-are-asking-schoolchildren-to-help-track-marine-life-fleeing-from-warming-oceans
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