Environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding has emerged as a potentially powerful tool to assess aquatic community structures. However, the method has hitherto lacked field tests that evaluate its effectiveness and practical properties as a biodiversity monitoring tool. Here, we evaluated the ability of eDNA metabarcoding to reveal fish community structures in species-rich coastal waters. High-performance fish-universal primers and systematic spatial water sampling at 47 stations covering ∼11 km 2 revealed the fish community structure at a species resolution. The eDNA metabarcoding based on a 6-h collection of water samples detected 128 fish species, of which 62.5% (40 species) were also observed by underwater visual censuses conducted over a 14-year period. This method also detected other local fishes (≥23 species) that were not observed by the visual censuses. These eDNA metabarcoding features will enhance marine ecosystem-related research, and the method will potentially become a standard tool for surveying fish communities.
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