New technologies, solutions and innovations

2016

Improved tools and technical advances are becoming more available, sophisticated and cost-effective for biodiversity assessment, monitoring and management (see Box BIO20). The following are increasingly being taken up for a multitude of biodiversity monitoring requirements:

  • advances in satellite telemetry, transponders, lightweight transmitters, remote cameras and remote audio devices
  • enhanced capability to store, analyse and present large datasets
  • developments to cost-effectively generate large-scale databases.

The past 5 years has seen a series of rapid improvements in genomic techniques that are useful for environmental studies, and that will hopefully lead to better SoE reporting. For instance, DNA barcoding methods have begun to be applied to natural history collections and biological surveys. Genetic barcoding has been fully integrated into Australia’s largest species discovery project, Bush Blitz. Barcoding of pooled environmental samples (‘metabarcoding’) has been used routinely to evaluate diversity in soil communities for many years, and Australian researchers are now among the world leaders in cataloguing and interpreting soil microbial diversity using genetic methods (e.g. see Biome of Australia Soil Environments project).

Significant advances during the past 3–5 years have led to powerful, cost-effective methods to assess genetic diversity. These improved tools now allow us to rapidly generate large-scale genomic databases that begin to quantify the vast numbers of cryptic organisms that previously have remained unknown to humanity, yet play fundamental roles in maintaining ecological systems. Understanding this rich data source will provide much more information on the ecological roles fulfilled by these cryptic species. This will enable new scientific approaches to biodiversity management, such as incorporating genetic and evolutionary processes into threatened species recovery, and allow targeted responses for adaptation. The ability to understand the functional attributes of particular genes could lead to the selection of the best set of individuals adapted for the future.

Cresswell ID, Murphy H (2016). Biodiversity: New technologies, solutions and innovations. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/biodiversity/topic/2016/new-technologies-solutions-and-innovations, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65ac828812