Analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) from passively collected airborne dust has demonstrated broad success for sensitive and robust detection of plants. Recent experiments at small spatial scales have suggested that animals can also be detected using airborne eDNA. However, airborne eDNA analysis has never been used for a long-term whole-community assessment of a natural terrestrial community or with passive dust collectors. We conducted a metabarcoding survey targeting vertebrate eDNA from dust carried in the air on an approximately 130-acre shortgrass prairie passively collected over the course of a year. Our survey detected a wide variety of animal forms including an amphibian species, several bird species, and both small and large mammals. We found that airborne eDNA signals changed with known patterns of animal activity, wind speed, and rainfall. Overall, we demonstrate that passively collected airborne dust carries eDNA from terrestrial animals and could be used to detect a wide variety of terrestrial vertebrate species in a natural environment with minimal effort. To develop this as a valuable monitoring tool, research needs to focus on the ecology of eDNA carried in the air, which includes the origin, state, transport, dispersal, and fate of eDNA in the environment.
- ecology of eDNA
- ecology of
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics