staff

Kristina Cermakova

Research assistant in Molecular Systematics & Environmental Genomics

  • T: +41 22 379 30 73
  • office 4078 (Sciences II)
  • Benthic monitoring of oil and gas offshore platforms in the North Sea using environmental DNA metabarcoding. Mol Ecol 2020 Oct;():. 10.1111/mec.15698.

    abstract

    Since 2010, considerable efforts have been undertaken to monitor the environmental status of European marine waters and ensuring the development of methodological standards for the evaluation of this status. However, the current routine biomonitoring implicates time-consuming and costly manual sorting and morphological identification of benthic macrofauna. Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding represents an alternative to the traditional monitoring method with very promising results. Here, we tested it further by performing eDNA metabarcoding of benthic eukaryotic communities in the vicinity of two offshore oil and gas platforms in the North Sea. Three different genetic markers (18S V1V2, 18S V9 and COI) were used to assess the environmental pressures induced by the platforms. All markers showed patterns of alpha and beta diversity consistent with morphology-based macrofauna analyses. In particular, the communities structure inferred from metabarcoding and morphological data significantly changed along distance gradients from the platforms. The impact of the operational discharges was also detected by the variation of biotic indices values, AMBI index showing the best correlation between morphological and eDNA datasets. Finally, the sediment physicochemical parameters were used to build a local de novo pressure index that served as benchmark to test the potential of a taxonomy-free approach. Our study demonstrates that metabarcoding approach outperforms morphology-based approach and can be used as a cost and time-saving alternative solution to the traditional morphology-based monitoring in order to monitor more efficiently the impact of industrial activities on marine biodiversity.

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  • Benthic foraminiferal metabarcoding and morphology-based assessment around three offshore gas platforms: Congruence and complementarity. Environ Int 2020 Aug;144():106049. S0160-4120(20)32004-3. 10.1016/j.envint.2020.106049.

    abstract

    Since the 1960 s, there has been a rapid expansion of drilling activities in the central and northern Adriatic Sea to meet the increasing global energy demand. The discharges of organic and inorganic pollutants, as well as the alteration of the sediment substrate, are among the main impacts associated with these activities. In the present study, we evaluate the response of benthic foraminifera to the activities of three gas platforms in the northwestern Adriatic Sea, with a special focus on the Armida A platform for which extensive geochemical data (organic matter, trace elements, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, other hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds) are available. The response to disturbance is assessed by analyzing the foraminiferal diversity using the traditional morphology-based approach and by 18S rDNA-based metabarcoding. The two methods give congruent results, showing relatively lower foraminiferal diversity and higher dominance values at stations closer to the platforms (<50 m). The taxonomic compositions of the morphological and metabarcoding datasets are very different, the latter being dominated by monothalamous, mainly soft-walled species. However, compositional changes consistently occur at 50 m from the platform and can be related to variations in sediment grain-size variation and higher concentrations of Ni, Zn, Ba, hydrocarbons and total organic carbon. Additionally, several morphospecies and Molecular Operational Taxonomic Units (MOTUs) show strong correlations with distance from the platform and with environmental parameters extracted from BIOENV analysis. Some of these MOTUs have the potential to become new bioindicators, complementing the assemblage of hard-shelled foraminiferal species detected through microscopic analyses. The congruence and complementarity between metabarcoding and morphological approaches support the application of foraminiferal metabarcoding in routine biomonitoring surveys as a reliable, time- and cost-effective methodology to assess the environmental impacts of marine industries.

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  • Multi-marker eDNA metabarcoding survey to assess the environmental impact of three offshore gas platforms in the North Adriatic Sea (Italy). Mar. Environ. Res. 2019 Apr;146():24-34. S0141-1136(18)30678-0. 10.1016/j.marenvres.2018.12.009.

    abstract

    The environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding represents a new promising tool for biomonitoring and environmental impact assessment. One of the main advantages of eDNA metabarcoding, compared to the traditional morphotaxonomy-based methods, is to provide a more holistic biodiversity information that includes inconspicuous morphologically non-identifiable taxa. Here, we use eDNA metabarcoding to survey marine biodiversity in the vicinity of the three offshore gas platforms in North Adriatic Sea (Italy). We isolated eDNA from 576 water and sediment samples collected at 32 sampling sites situated along four axes at increasing distances from the gas platforms. We obtained about 46 million eDNA sequences for 5 markers from nuclear 18S V1V2, 18S V4, 18S 37F and mitochondrial 16S and COI genes that cover a wide diversity of benthic and planktonic eukaryotes. Our results showed some impact of platform activities on benthic and pelagic communities at very close distance (<50 m), while communities for intermediate (125 m, 250 m, 500 m) and reference (1000 m, 2000 m) sites did not show any particular biodiversity changes that could be related to platforms activities. The most significant community change along the distance gradient was obtained with the 18S V1V2 marker targeting benthic eukaryotes, even though other markers showed similar trends, but to a lesser extent. These results were congruent with the AMBI index inferred from the eDNA sequences assigned to benthic macrofauna. We finally explored the relation between various physicochemical parameters, including hydrocarbons, on benthic community in the case of one of the platforms. Our results showed that these communities were not significantly impacted by most of hydrocarbons, but rather by macro-elements and sediment texture.

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