High stream flows dilute environmental DNA (eDNA) concentrations and reduce detectability

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: Environmental DNA (eDNA) is a rapidly emerging methodology with important applications to environmental management and conservation. However, the effects of stream flow or discharge on eDNA have been minimally investigated in lotic (stream and river) environments. In this study, we examined the role of stream flow on eDNA concentrations and detectability of an invasive clam (Corbicula fluminea), while also accounting for other abiotic and biotic variables. Location: Illinois, United States of America. Methods: We used a longitudinal study over a year in two streams, as well as a seasonal study (summer, autumn) in eight streams, to investigate the effects of variable stream flow on eDNA concentrations and detectability. We used linear mixed-effects models to assess the influence of various factors on eDNA concentration and occupancy models to make predictions on how seasonality can influence eDNA detection. Results: We found higher stream flows decreased eDNA concentrations, and floods produced false negatives or non-detections at locations where C. fluminea was relatively common. In addition, we found concentrations and detectability of C. fluminea eDNA to be higher in summer than in autumn. Main conclusions: We found that stream flow dilutes eDNA concentrations, which may have serious implications for the detection of low abundance organisms. Managers and practitioners applying eDNA for rare species should seek to sample at low or base stream flows when feasible, and future studies should investigate whether our findings here are consistent for other taxa and lotic ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1918-1931
Number of pages14
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Corbicula
  • detection probability
  • eDNA
  • invasive species
  • lotic
  • occupancy modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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