In accordance with the European Water Framework Directive, the Nordic countries monitor the ecological status of waterbodies to assure that either their good status persists, or that current status improves. Traditionally in biomonitoring, individuals in samples from a specific waterbody are identified based on morphological characteristics to the degree of taxonomic resolution possible e.g. species, or more generally taxa. In a second step, the sample taxa list is compared to a list established earlier for reference-condition. The degree of deviation from the expected reference condition is used as the basis for the assessment of the status of the waterbody the sample was taken from.

Traditional taxa identification underlies current assessments but requires high taxonomic expertise and therefore comes at a relatively high price. There are fewer expert taxonomists and training of future experts is in decline. Reliable identification of microscopic organisms is a slow process and the time lag between sampling and obtaining results is long. Finally, in most countries funding for biomonitoring campaigns is in decline. Fortunately, breakthroughs in genetic methods can solve the aforementioned problems.


The main emphasis in this project will be on comparing the performance and applicability of DNA -metabarcoding approaches to traditional identification of routine monitoring samples. The use of this method for genetically identifying and managing taxonomical data will simultaneously stretch the speed and accuracy limits;of current taxonomic identification and provide previously unavailable taxonomic data. We will assess the strength of the novel genetic identification method to improve biomonitoring of pressures of change, improve ecosystem health and biodiversity assessments, and ecosystem service identification and preservation.

SCANDNAnet covers a geographically very large extent by using samples from the annual national monitoring programs of all Nordic countries. The novel advances made during this project can directly be put into use in the national monitoring programs of the Nordic countries and will have far reaching impact in Europe and beyond. Through intensive dialogue with relevant national and international stakeholders our results will help facilitate cost-effective, standardized DNA-based biomonitoring and create a significant societal impact by promoting reliable future aquatic ecosystem status and service management


  • Milestone 1   Genetic analysis of at least 60 macroinvertebrate samples from each nation
  • Milestone 2   Nordic validation of genetic identification method
  • Milestone 3   Report on project findings, scientific publication and dissemination to stakeholders

Participating institutes:

Published 2018-07-13 at 12:55, updated 2018-10-24 at 13:11