Harnessing eDNA for Ecosystem Restoration and Rewilding in the Mediterranean: A Revolutionary Approach to Biodiversity Monitoring and Carbon Offsetting
In the pursuit of sustainable environmental practices, scientists and conservationists are turning to cutting-edge technologies to aid in ecosystem restoration and rewilding efforts. One such technology making waves in the field is Environmental DNA, or eDNA, a revolutionary tool that has proven invaluable in monitoring biodiversity and facilitating carbon offsetting in rewilding sites.
Environmental DNA is genetic material shed by organisms into their environment through various means such as skin, saliva, urine, or faeces. This genetic material can be collected and analysed from soil, water, or air samples, allowing researchers to identify the presence and abundance of species in a particular ecosystem without the need for direct observation. This non-invasive and highly sensitive technique has transformed the way we approach ecosystem monitoring.
Nature Metrics, a nature restoration company, is at the forefront of this technology. The Whole Wild World, a Gibraltar-based charity established in 2021, recently utilised eDNA for the first time on their partner rewilding site in Portugal, Herdade Alagaes, a 230-hectare site owned by Lisbon University academic Catarina and her husband. The charity funded eDNA kits purchased from Nature Metrics through the proceeds of the 2021 ‘Walk for the Wild’ events held in Gibraltar’s schools. These sponsored walks aimed to encourage children to spend more time in nature while raising funds for nature restoration projects.
eDNA in Ecosystem Restoration
In ecosystem restoration projects, understanding biodiversity is crucial for assessing the success of rewilding efforts. eDNA provides a comprehensive snapshot of the species present in each area, allowing scientists to track the effectiveness of reintroductions, monitor population dynamics, and identify potential threats to biodiversity. This information is vital for making informed decisions about habitat management and conservation strategies.
Moreover, eDNA plays a pivotal role in carbon offsetting for rewilding sites. As ecosystems recover and vegetation regrows, they act as natural carbon sinks, sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide. eDNA enables researchers to monitor not only the diversity of plant species but also assess the carbon capture potential of these rewilded areas. This information is invaluable for quantifying the environmental benefits of rewilding projects and contributing to global carbon offset initiatives.
Nature Metrics has recently launched an impressive online platform, accessible to all users, making eDNA results visual and trackable over time. This platform will serve as a valuable educational tool for the schools that participated in the project.
Utilizing eDNA for Bio Credit Monitoring
In the context of Portugal’s rewilding project, eDNA serves as a critical tool for monitoring and quantifying the biodiversity impact, thereby facilitating the generation of bio credits. The genetic material shed by organisms provides a wealth of information about the presence and abundance of species. This data can be analysed to assess the success of reintroductions, measure the diversity of native species, and track the overall health of ecosystems.
The Integration of eDNA, Rewilding, and Bio Credits in Portugal
Portugal’s rewilding project can leverage eDNA not only for traditional conservation monitoring but also to demonstrate the measurable impact on biodiversity necessary for earning bio credits. By reintroducing keystone species, restoring habitats, and allowing natural processes to unfold, the rewilding efforts can actively contribute to biodiversity enhancement.
The data generated from eDNA analysis becomes a valuable asset for quantifying the ecological benefits of the rewilding project. This information can then be translated into bio credits, which individuals, businesses, or governments can purchase to support and invest in sustainable biodiversity conservation.
The WWW, in collaboration with Department for Environment & Climate Change and Gibraltar University are planning eDNA testing in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve in 2024 and will be seeking funding partners for this work. This research will provide crucial data for future rewilding work in Gibraltar and provide valuable comparisons with other Mediterranean ecosystems.
The combination of eDNA, rewilding, and bio credits presents a forward-thinking and comprehensive approach to address both climate change and biodiversity loss. Portugal’s rewilding project, with its commitment to conservation, can serve as a model for sustainable environmental practices. By embracing bio credits as an alternative to traditional carbon offsetting, the project not only contributes to climate change mitigation but also fosters a thriving and resilient natural environment. As the world seeks innovative strategies for a sustainable future, the integration of eDNA and bio credits offers a promising pathway toward a balanced and biodiverse planet.
Written by Jessica Leaper