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Task 2.1.2. Experimental protocol for the permafrost

Task lead: CO-01 CRNS Dr. Pierre Taberlet, Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Grenoble, France

This work tested the environmental DNA approach through all stages from field sampling to DNA sequencing using a modern study system.  We sampled soil from locations in north Norway (Varanger Peninsula) and Svalbard and surveyed vegetation at the collection sites.  Pollen and environmental DNA were extracted from the soil. Selected soil samples were radiocarbon dated.  Sequences were compared with the database and identified plant taxa from the soil samples were compared with recorded vegetation.  Processing large numbers of DNA samples has taken advantage of the latest advances in DNA sequencing technology. During the course of the project, the team improved techniques for amplification, tagging and sequence identification. We used high-throughput sequencing, in which many hundreds of samples are processed in parallel, and developed bioinformatic analyses to interpret the results and detect errors.

The results from both localities are highly promising. Soil samples were dated to the past few decades indicating the soil DNA was derived from contemporary and near-contemporary material. Soil DNA composition matched closely to that of the modern vegetation at family, genus, and species level, with few false positives. At Varanger, DNA, pollen, and vegetation assemblages from different plant communities mapped on to each other. In Svalbard, both DNA and pollen reflected the local tundra vegetation mosaic.  At both sites results suggest that most soil DNA is derived from locally growing vegetation as expected by our theoretical model. 

  • Yoccoz, N. G.; K. A. Bråthen; L. Gielly; J. Haile; M. E. Edwards;T. Goslar; H. von Stedingk; A. K. Brysting;E. Coissac;F. Pompanon;J. H. Sønstebø; C. Miquel; A. Valentini; F. de Bello; J. Chave9, W. Thuiller2, P. Wincker10, C. Cruaud10, F. Gavory10, M. Rasmussen3, M. T. P. Gilbert; L. Orlando; C. Brochmann; E. Willerslev; P. Taberlet. DNA from soil mirrors plant functional and structural diversity. (Submitted to Ecology Letters)
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