A DNA metabarcoding approach to monitoring fish spawning and population connectivity in Coastal Southern and Central California

Project Number
Project Date Range
Funding Agency
California Ocean Protection Council (OPC)
Focus Area(s)
Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Changes in global climate are affecting many parameters of the ocean environment including temperature, pH, nutrient levels, and oxygen concentrations. These changes, along with direct anthropogenic impacts may be altering the distribution and abundance of marine fish in California's coastal ecosystems, with potentially significant consequences on commercial and recreational fisheries. Although changes in distributions of adult fish may be immediately apparent, alterations in reproductive activity may be harder to identify, and in some cases, may only affect adult populations years later. 

This project will apply DNA metabarcoding, a DNA-based method of species identification, to provide a cost-effective and comprehensive analysis of fish spawning activity at six shore stations spanning from La Jolla in the south to Santa Cruz in the north. The project will take advantage of extensive environmental data collected at these observing system sites towards gaining an understanding of key factors influencing temporal variation in coastal California fish populations. Building on standard metabarcoding approaches, this project will use techniques for species identification of fish eggs.  In addition, a highly variable genetic marker will be used to examine levels of connectivity among populations within each species. This will require development of a mtDNA control region barcode database which will be established from an existing set of DNA samples from over 600 species of California marine fish.

 The data obtained by this project will be unprecedented in providing information on both spawning patterns as well as population structure for all fish species sampled (in sufficient numbers) across the six sites.