Effects of Agriculture and Climate Change on Prairie Wetlands

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute
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The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI), InnoTech Alberta, and Ducks Unlimited Canada have partnered on a four-year project to better understand linkages between wetland health and waterfowl breeding success in the face of agricultural land use and climate change. We are sampling a range of parameters, including:

  • Wetland water quality measured across a gradient of agricultural land cover and wetland permanence types.
  • Aquatic macroinvertebrates—an indicator of wetland productivity and health—sampled using conventional approaches and genomics (genetics-based) methods to determine community composition and relative abundance. 
  • Waterfowl productivity assessed by counting the number of waterfowl pairs and broods (i.e., ducklings) on wetlands, and waterfowl predators detected using autonomous recording units (ARUs) and remote cameras.

Environmental genomics involves sequencing DNA from samples collected from the environment. These samples can be from different habitats (e.g., wetlands, forests), different media (e.g., water, soil, air), or directly from specimens such as aquatic invertebrates or plants.

Conventional methods for sampling and monitoring species groups—such as aquatic invertebrates—rely on morphological identification of individual specimens. In contrast, environmental genomics allows researchers to obtain significant information from DNA extracted from organisms or their environments, an approach which provides the following benefits:

  • enhances speed and accuracy of species identification, 
  • reduces time required to process and identify sample organisms, 
  • increases taxonomic resolution by enabling the detection of cryptic or hard-to-identify species, 
  • captures information (from shed cells or immature or damaged specimens) that would not be obtainable through conventional methods, and,
  • allows for the assessment of entire biological communities, aiding in the evaluation of ecosystem health and responses to environmental stressors on a larger scale.