Predicting Hydrologic Function With Aquatic Gene Fragments

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  • Recent advances in microbiology techniques, such as genetic sequencing, allow for rapid and cost-effective collection of large quantities of genetic information carried within water samples. Here we posit that the unique composition of aquatic DNA material within a water sample contains relevant information about hydrologic function at multiple temporal scales. In this study, machine learning was used to develop discharge prediction models trained on the relative abundance of bacterial taxa classified into operational taxonomic units (OTUs) based on 16S rRNA gene sequences from six large arctic rivers. We term this approach "genohydrology," and show that OTU relative abundances can be used to predict river discharge at monthly and longer timescales. Based on a single DNA sample from each river, the average Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) for predicted mean monthly discharge values throughout the year was 0.84, while the NSE for predicted discharge values across different return intervals was 0.67. These are considerable improvements over predictions based only on the area-scaled mean specific discharge of five similar rivers, which had average NSE values of 0.64 and -0.32 for seasonal and recurrence interval discharge values, respectively. The genohydrology approach demonstrates that genetic diversity within the aquatic microbiome is a large and underutilized data resource with benefits for prediction of hydrologic function.
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  • 54
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  • 0043-1397



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