4.7 Article

Estimating biodiversity across the tree of life on Mount Everest's southern flank with environmental DNA


Volume 25, Issue 9, Pages -


DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.104848




  1. Rolex as part of its Perpetual Planet initiative
  2. NSF [1531492]

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Species composition in high-alpine ecosystems can be used as an indicator for monitoring climate and environmental changes. Using eDNA analysis, researchers documented the biodiversity present on Mount Everest, identifying taxa from 36 phyla and 187 potential orders. This inventory provides valuable information for future monitoring and studies on the impact of climate change and anthropogenic influences on this unique ecosystem.
Species composition in high-alpine ecosystems is a useful indicator for monitoring climatic and environmental changes at the upper limits of habitable environments. We used environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis to document the breadth of high-alpine biodiversity present on Earth's highest mountain, Mt. Everest (8,849 m a.s.l.) in Nepal's Khumbu region. In April-May 2019, we collected eDNA from ten ponds and streams between 4,500 m and 5,500 m. Using multiple sequencing and bioinformatic approaches, we identified taxa from 36 phyla and 187 potential orders across the Tree of Life in Mt. Everest's high-alpine and aeolian ecosystem. These organisms, all recorded above 4,500 m-an elevational belt comprising < 3% of Earth's land surface-represents similar to 16% of global taxonomic order estimates. Our eDNA inventory will aid future high-Himalayan bio-monitoring and retrospective molecular studies to assess changes over time as climate-driven warming, glacial melt, and anthropogenic influences reshape this rapidly transforming world-renowned ecosystem.


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