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Exploring the use of environmental DNA to determine the species of salmon redds

May 20, 2017

Annual redd counts are used to monitor the status and trends of salmonid populations, but methods to easily and reliably determine which of sympatric species made specific redds are lacking. We explored whether environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis might prove useful for determining the species of salmon redds. We collected eDNA samples from the interstitial spaces of redds of Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, redds of Coho Salmon O. kisutch, and areas of undisturbed gravel (n = 10, each), as well as from the water column adjacent to each of those sites in the Sandy River basin, Oregon, USA during the fall of 2013. The concentrations of Chinook and Coho eDNA were quantified within each sample using real-time PCR. The water in the interstitial spaces of redds contained significantly higher eDNA concentrations of the species that made the redd than (1) the other species and (2) the adjacent water column. In contrast, neither Chinook nor Coho eDNA was significantly more concentrated than the other in the water from the interstitial spaces of undisturbed gravel. The interstitial water of undisturbed gravel contained significantly higher eDNA concentrations of Coho than the adjacent water column. In contrast, Chinook eDNA concentration was similar in the interstitial water of undisturbed gravel and the adjacent water column. Both species’ redds had significantly higher concentrations of their respective species’ eDNA than did undisturbed gravel, but conclusions were confounded by differences in the timing and locations of sampling. This initial investigation highlights the potential value and some of the complexity of using eDNA analysis to indicate redd species.