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Environmental DNA, an innovative technique for the study of biodiversity

Electrofishing is the technique commonly used to monitor the fish population in a river, but it has its limits. In a partnership with LECA (Alpine ecology lab), Irstea and the Spygen company, Onema launched a project to study environmental DNA, a technique to detect DNA traces left in the water by organisms. This recent development has produced encouraging results for monitoring of rare species. This technique could make it possible to carry out large-scale fish inventories costing minimal amounts of time and money. But it will not replace electrofishing because it cannot quantify species densities nor measure the size of individual fish. To data, DNA sequencing has been carried out for over 90 fish species. Current research deals with detectability, water-sampling strategies and techniques, and the final touches to the molecular reference dataset for the fish species. Work on other aquatic species is currently under way in the framework of partnerships with Spygen (bivalves, amphibians, odonata, etc.) and INRA (diatoms).

Contact:Contact:nicolas.poulet@onema.fr"

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Amphibians threatened by a new fungus

Amphibian populations have suffered a decline worldwide due to habitat loss and damage, but also due to emerging diseases. Recently, a new fungus species Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans was identified as the cause of death for vast numbers of fire salamanders in the Netherlands. The fungus has also been detected in Belgium. It is highly pathogenic for the newt and salamander species found in France. In light of the situation, enhanced monitoring of the amphibian populations is now urgent. Information on the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans monitoring programme will soon be available on the www.alerte-amphibien.fr site where it will be possible to post observations of diseased animals. If high mortalities are observed, analyses will be undertaken.

Conctact nicolas.poulet@onema.fr

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World wetlands day on 2 February to celebrate a rich source of biodiversity

Wetlands are home to innumerable plant and animal species. Some 50% of all bird species and particularly migratory species depend on them. They are also indispensable for the reproduction of amphibians and most fish species, and 30% of all remarkable and threatened plant species in France are found only in wetlands. That is why it is important to preserve them, but also to inform people and raise awareness concerning the richness of these exceptional areas. World wetlands day will take place on 2 February. Numerous events on "Wetlands for our future", including nature walks, exhibits, workshops, shows, symposia, etc., will allow visitors to discover wetlands, throughout continental France and the overseas territories. Onema, the wetland centres, the League for the protection of birds, the National association for the protection of nature and the Ramsar-France association will join forces for the event. Together, they will coordinate all the events held in France. For more information, see http://www.zones-humides.eaufrance.fr/actualites. In conjunction with the World wetlands day, OIEau and Onema propose a smartphone app called baladOmarais to locate the closest events and information centres.

Contact: pierre.caessteker@onema.fr

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30 years of sturgeon research for the good status of aquatic environments

In October 2014, a new building was inaugurated in Saint-Seurin-sur-l’Isle (Gironde department) to preserve the European sturgeon (Acipenser sturio). A remarkable scientific project, launched in 1975, succeeded in 2007 in artificially reproducing the species using reproducers themselves grown in captivity. Since then, 1.6 million young sturgeon have been released in the Garonne, Dordogne and Elbe Rivers. Above and beyond the preservation of the species, at issue is the ecological quality of the rivers and of the Gironde estuary. Today, the new building, a structure unique in Europe, will assist researchers in meeting a new challenge, that of ensuring the survival of the species in spite of climate change and water pollution. From its founding, Onema has worked with Irstea in Bordeaux on this restocking project in the Gironde basin.

Contact: jean-marie.hamonet@onema.fr

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Efforts to protect freshwater pearl mussels in the Creuse department

The Margaritifera margaritifera pearl mussel is a threatened and protected species. It is also a quality sentinel for rivers in granitic highlands. Half of all the freshwater pearl mussels inventoried in France are located in the Limousin region. Since 2010, efforts to locate mussels in the degraded Thaurion basin have mobilised the Creuse local office, which set up monitoring points for mussel populations in order to draw up a status report on their presence. The collected data enhance the local knowledge on the situation and serve to classify rivers. In the framework of the Limousin regional plan for pearl mussels, Onema cooperates with a number of institutional partners and environmental-protection groups to learn more about the mussels, inform the public and take action in favour of the species and its habitats. On the Leyrenne River, contacts have resulted in measures to reconcile agriculture and protection of water quality.

Contact: gilles.barthelemy@onema.fr

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No more white-clawed crayfish in the Lucelle River

The Lucelle is a small, cross-border river in France and Switzerland. Its high ecological status makes it an important natural site. Until 2013, it was home to a population of white-clawed crayfish, a species on the red list of threatened species, that was thought to be one of the largest populations in N.E. France and Switzerland. Then in 2013, mortalities attributed to the crayfish plague were observed. The Onema N.E. regional office and the Haut-Rhin local office participated in monitoring the deaths. Analyses carried out by the University of Poitiers identified the signal crayfish as the cause of the deaths. Over a short reach of the river, a healthy population still existed and Onema personnel decided to try to save the animals. Following approval by the Prefect, they captured 570 healthy crayfish and released them in the nearby Lutter River, in which no crayfish of any species existed. The results of this effort will be known in one year's time. Since then, all white-clawed crayfish have disappeared from the Lucelle River.

Contact: patrick.bohn@onema.fr

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