Genetic biomonitoring and biodiversity assessment using portable sequencing technologies: current uses and future directions

We live in an era of unprecedented biodiversity loss, affecting the taxonomic composition of ecosystems worldwide. The immense task of quantifying human imprints on global ecosystems has been greatly simplified by developments in high-throughput DNA sequencing technology (HTS). Approaches like DNA metabarcoding enable the study of biological communities at unparalleled detail. However, current protocols for HTS-based biodiversity exploration have several drawbacks. They are usually based on short sequences, with limited taxonomic and phylogenetic information content. Access to expensive HTS technology is often restricted in developing countries. Ecosystems of particular conservation priority are often remote and hard to access, requiring extensive time from field collection to laboratory processing of specimens. The advent of inexpensive mobile laboratory and DNA sequencing technologies show great promise to facilitate monitoring projects in biodiversity hot-spots around the world. Recent attention has been given to portable DNA sequencing studies related to infectious organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, yet relatively few studies have focused on applying these tools to Eukaryotes, such as plants and animals. Here, we outline the current state of genetic biodiversity monitoring of higher Eukaryotes using Oxford Nanopore Technology’s MinION portable sequencing platform, as well as summarize areas of recent development.

Authors: Henrik Krehenwinkel, Aaron Pomerantz, Stefan Prost