Tropical floodplain wetlands are found in low-lying areas that are periodically inundated. During wet periods, these wetlands can receive large amounts of suspended and dissolved material from the catchment, including many potential pollutants. In this study, we use traditional isotope tracers (δ15N and δ13C) along with soil eDNA to investigate the sources of transported materials and potential contaminants in seven forested floodplain wetlands in tropical Australia. We hypothesised that eDNA and isotope tracers in the soil would reflect the land use of the catchment. Our goal was to test whether eDNA could be used as a potential tool to identify and monitor pollutants in floodplain wetlands. The sampling sites were located within catchments that have a mosaic of land types, from well-conserved rainforests to intensive agricultural land uses, such as grazing, sugar cane, wood production, and horticulture. The soil eDNA was comprised of a mix of plant species consistent with the land use of the catchments. Most of the eDNA pool was derived from native trees, accounting for 46.2 ± 6.5% of the total; while cultivated species associated with agricultural activities contributed to 1-24% of the total. From the cultivated species, highest contributions (>5%) were from Sorghum sp. used for grazing, banana (Musa ornata), melons (Cucumis melo), and Pinus radiata and Juniperus sp. grown for wood production. Interestingly, tropical wetlands on sites 15 km offshore had soil eDNA from agricultural activities of the mainland, highlighting the connectivity of these wetlands, probably during extensive floods. Overall, soil eDNA, more than isotopic tracers, showed promising results for tracing and monitoring potential pollutants in tropical floodplain wetlands that are highly connected and susceptible to environmental degradation.
- Water quality