The Horizon Europe eDNAqua-Plan project is led by an interdisciplinary consortium comprising 18 partner institutions from 11 countries, and one international (UN) institute, with complementary expertise in marine and freshwater monitoring, eDNA analysis as well as data science. The consortium cooperates with the large EU research projects and infrastructure such as EMODnet, BIOSCAN-Europe, the Ocean and Water knowledge system, LifeWatch, and international systems (ELIXIR/EBI and OBIS), amongst others, to maximise synergies and interoperability internationally. Possible implementation will be demonstrated by use cases from national and transnational water monitoring programs. Based on this, eDNAqua-Plan will deliver a roadmap for harmonised aquatic monitoring using eDNA tools in Europe and beyond.

As Project partner, Seascape Belgium co-leads the stakeholder engagement with Coordinator EMBRC, contributes to communication activities, and leads a workpackage on the Blueprint, Roadmap and Sustainability,providing coordination for a policy document (Roadmap) that will communicate the vision and added value of an optimised and interoperable European digital ecosystem for environmental DNA of marine and freshwater species. 

The project will directly contribute to new knowledge and optimised marine biodiversity (with a focus on eDNA) data access and availability. 

This is relevant to the EU Mission to “Restore our Oceans and Waters by 2030” relies on robust, reliable and ideally real-time biodiversity data. The analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) extracted from water or sediment, represents a major source of innovation in aquatic ecosystem monitoring with great potential to support the EU Mission. The central limitations for the routine implementation of eDNA-based methods are incomplete, disconnected and non-standardized reference libraries for taxonomic assignment as well as a lack of harmonised metadata. To support the coordination of the EU Mission Ocean strategy, The Horizon Europe project “A Plan towards an eDNA reference library and data repository for Aquatic Organisms, navigating Europe towards the next generation biodiversity monitoring” (eDNAqua-Plan) will: 

  • Collect information on existing projects, initiatives and infrastructures for aquatic monitoring in the EU and associated countries. 

  • Provide an overview of all national and international activities of standardisation and inter-operationalisation of methods and data workflows.

  • Assess the relevance and feasibility of the creation of a digital ecosystem of eDNA repositories and an integrated and dynamic reference library of marine and freshwater species that is open-access and based on FAIR principles to support future aquatic biodiversity monitoring programmes and mapping initiatives.