UNESCO ‘eDNA’ Effort Aims to ‘Unlock’ Information in Order to Protect Biodiversity

The UN scientific body started a project to safeguard and preserve biodiversity on Monday, based on the study of environmental DNA – biological material released from living things into their surroundings – to better comprehend the richness of biodiversity across World Heritage marine locations. 

Scientists and local residents will obtain samples of genetic material from fish waste, mucous membranes, or cells, eDNA, to monitor species, according to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which launched the new programme. 

The two-year programme, according to UNESCO, will assist quantify the susceptibility of marine biodiversity to climate change, as well as its impact on marine species distribution and migration patterns across World Heritage sites. 

The eDNA initiative, which includes collecting and analysing samples from the environment – such as soil, water, and air – rather than an individual creature, will help to better monitor and protect endangered species on the IUCN Red List. 

Climate change is having an impact on the behaviour and distribution of undersea species, and there is a need to know what’s going on so that we can adapt our conservation efforts to changing conditions. 

The marine World Heritage sites of UNESCO are recognised for their unique biodiversity, remarkable ecosystems, or historical significance. 

The project was initiated as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to contribute to a better understanding of global trends and knowledge in order to protect marine ecosystems. 

According to the UN organisation, since 1981, when Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was inscribed as UNESCO’s first marine monument, a global network of 50 others have been added as “beacons of hope for healing the ocean.” 

The eDNA initiative will enlist the help of local residents to collect material so that samples, such as those collected through water filtering, can be genetically analysed in specialised facilities without disturbing the animals themselves. 

The application of eDNA in ocean monitoring and data collecting is still in its early stages, and UNESCO’s innovative eDNA project will streamline routine sample and data management processes. 

For the first time, it will use a consistent methodology throughout different marine protected areas at the same time, assisting in the development of global standards, data monitoring, and management practices while also making information available to the public. 

The Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), the world’s largest open-access data system on the distribution and diversity of marine species, will process and publish all data. OBIS is maintained and collectively supported by a worldwide network of scientists, data managers, and consumers. 

The goal of the project is to improve global understanding of ocean life and to establish conservation and management policy indicators. 

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