A DNA-based approach for evaluating the impacts of wood waste on benthic biodiversity

Coastal habitats are critical for the health, livelihoods and social well-being of Canadian communities. In British Columbia, log handling and storage areas create wood waste that falls to the seafloor and does not decompose, degrading important habitats and substantially reducing the number of species can live there. To manage the impacts of habitat degradation, it is important to have accurate methods for measuring species diversity, but marine animals are difficult and time-consuming to identify and many remain unknown to science. One possible solution is to measure species diversity using DNA barcoding, which uses short sequences of DNA to rapidly identify species. When applied to environmental samples such as seafloor sediments, barcoding can identify many species at once, substantially increasing efficiency and reducing the costs of monitoring. This project will address key challenges in applying DNA-based methods to monitoring marine environments. We will build a reference library of DNA barcodes for seafloor animals, refine methods for using DNA to study the impact of wood waste, and evaluate the strengths and limitations of DNA-based methods compared to visual identification. In doing so, we will significantly improve our ability to monitor marine species, thereby improving policy and planning strategies for TOBECONT.

Faculty Supervisor:

Paul Hebert


Jessica Schultz


Biologica Environmental Services Ltd






University of Guelph



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