Automated biodiversity monitoring in the North Sea through eDNA

Project Details


Main research question/goal

ZERO-impact aims to develop an innovative, sustainable and automatic method to detect marie species using environmental DNA (eDNA). Using eDNA for the study of marine species and biodiversity offers major advatages compared to traditional identification methods: 1) samples of water are sufficient, thus the animals do not need to be disturbed; 2) different organismal groups (fish, invertebrates, plakton) can be studied using the same sampling method and 3) a continuous timeseries of marine biodiversity can be obtained through the autonomous collection of seawater.

Research approach

ZERO-impact will investigate temporal and spatial eDNA patterns in the North Sea using metabarcoding to assess whether eDNA can be used for monitoring the good environmental status of the marine environment  (WP1 and WP2). In addition, the automated collection of eDNA will be investigated (WP4) and case studies will be conducted to pinpoint the spawning period of fishes (WP3) and oysters (WP5) and to detect harmful algae and parasites near aquaculture farms (WP5).


The project investigates an alternative method to analyse marine biodiversity without impacting the animals or the ecosystem. ZERO-impact also wants to automatically collect biological data over time which would reduce ship time, and thus CO2 emission. Given the increasing level of aquaculture activity in the North Sea, adequate and continuous monitoring of toxic algae and parasites is crucial to detect potential contaminants in a timely manner and to fine-tune policy measures. In addition, the characterization of the spawning period of plaice and sole by means of eDNA will provide a more accurate picture, possibly allowing it to be shortened. This immediately provides added value to the fishermen, since the sustainability score will be higher during a longer period.

External partner(s)
KBIN - Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen
Effective start/end date1/09/2130/11/23

Flemish Discipline list

  • Marine ecology

Data Management Plan flag for FRIS

  • DMP not present


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