The accurate identification of aquatic organisms is central to conducting robust bioassessments. With the development of molecular techniques, DNA is now being recognised as an ideal way to identify organisms and promises to revolutionise the way we conduct monitoring and research in aquatic environments.
We undertook complementary classical identification procedures and DNA barcoding on aquatic macroinvertebrates to investigate the potential benefits of incorporating DNA barcoding into our long term biological monitoring programs. The application of DNA barcodes to inform species identification was found to be limited by the availability of species with corresponding DNA sequences on web-based databases. However, we found DNA barcode data enhanced or complimented morphologically-based data in five areas: providing greater resolution on identifications, revealing incorrect morphologically-based identifications, providing evidence for cryptic taxa, providing associations between adult and immature life stages, and confirming morphologically-based species delineations.
Our findings illustrate the potential benefits of incorporating molecular approaches to aquatic research and monitoring programs. However, to capitalize on barcoding techniques, a comprehensive barcode library of Australian aquatic organisms is essential.