Early detection of invasive species allows for a more rapid and effective response. Restoration of the native ecosystem after an invasive population has established is expensive and difficult but more likely to succeed when invasions are detected early in the invasion process. Containment efforts to prevent the spread of known invasions also benefit from earlier knowledge of invaded sites. Environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques have emerged as a tool that can identify invasive species at a distinctly earlier time point than traditional methods of detection. Here, we focus on whether eDNA techniques can be successfully applied to detect new invasions by the destructive New Zealand Mud Snail Potamopyrgus antipodarum (NZMS). It is an opportune time to apply eDNA-based detection in P. antipodarum, which is currently expanding its invasive range across eastern North America. We collected water samples from eight sites in central Pennsylvania that prior evidence indicated were not yet invaded by the NZMS but were part of the same watershed as other previously documented invaded sites. We found evidence for NZMS invasion at five of the eight sites, with subsequent physical confirmation of mud snails at one of these sites. This study is the first example of successful application of eDNA to detect a previously unidentified invasive population of NZMS, setting the stage for further monitoring of at-risk sites to detect and control new invasions of this destructive snail. This study also shows potential opportunities for invasion monitoring offered by using low-cost efforts and methods that are adaptable for citizen science.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics