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What do you mean by false positive?

September 1, 2021

Misunderstandings regarding the term “false positive” present a significant hurdle to broad adoption of eDNA monitoring methods. Here, we identify three challenges to clear communication of false-positive error between scientists, managers, and the public. The first arises from a failure to distinguish between false-positive eDNA detection at the sample level and false-positive inference of taxa presence at the site level. The second is based on the large proportion of false positives that may occur when true-positive detections are likely to be rare, even when rates of contamination or other error are low. And the third misunderstanding occurs when conventional species detection approaches, often based on direct capture, are used to confirm eDNA approaches without acknowledging or quantifying the conventional approach's detection probability. The solutions to these issues include careful and consistent communication of error definitions, managing expectations of error rates, and providing a balanced discussion not only of alternative sources of species DNA, but also of the detection limitations of conventional methods. We argue that the benefit of addressing these misunderstandings will be increased confidence in the utility of eDNA methods and, ultimately, improved resource management using eDNA approaches.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title What do you mean by false positive?
DOI 10.1002/edn3.194
Authors John A. Darling, Christopher L. Jerde, Adam J. Sepulveda
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental DNA
Index ID 70239176
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center