Trade-offs between reducing complex terminology and producing accurate
interpretations from environmental DNA: Comment on “Environmental DNA:
What’s behind the term?” by Pawlowski et al. (2020)
In a recent paper, “Environmental DNA: What’s behind the term?
Clarifying the terminology and recommendations for its future use in
biomonitoring”, Pawlowski et al. argue that the term eDNA should be
used to refer to the pool of DNA isolated from environmental samples, as
opposed to only extra-organismal DNA from macro-organisms. We agree with
this view. However, we are concerned that their proposed two-level
terminology specifying sampling environment and targeted taxa is overly
simplistic and might hinder rather than improve clear communication
about environmental DNA and its use in biomonitoring. Not only is this
terminology based on categories that are often difficult to assign and
uninformative, but it ignores what is in our opinion the most important
distinction within eDNA: the type of DNA (organismal or
extra-organismal) from which ecological interpretations are derived.