Aquatic oligochaetes are a common group of freshwater benthic invertebrates known to be very sensitive to environmental changes and currently used as bioindicators in some countries. However, more extensive application of oligochaetes for assessing the ecological quality of sediments in watercourses and lakes would require overcoming the difficulties related to morphology-based identification of oligochaetes species. This study tested the Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) of a standard cytochrome c oxydase I (COI) barcode as a tool for the rapid assessment of oligochaete diversity in environmental samples, based on mixed specimen samples. To know the composition of each sample we Sanger sequenced every specimen present in these samples. Our study showed that a large majority of OTUs (Operational Taxonomic Unit) could be detected by NGS analyses. We also observed congruence between the NGS and specimen abundance data for several but not all OTUs. Because the differences in sequence abundance data were consistent across samples, we exploited these variations to empirically design correction factors. We showed that such factors increased the congruence between the values of oligochaetes-based indices inferred from the NGS and the Sanger-sequenced specimen data. The validation of these correction factors by further experimental studies will be needed for the adaptation and use of NGS technology in biomonitoring studies based on oligochaete communities.
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