Participants in the 7th International Barcode of Life Conference (Kruger National Park, South Africa, 20-24 November 2017) share the latest findings in DNA barcoding research and its increasingly diversified applications. Here, we review prevailing trends synthesized from among 429 invited and contributed abstracts, which are collated in this open-access special issue of Genome. Hosted for the first time on the African continent, the 7th Conference places special emphasis on the evolutionary origins, biogeography, and conservation of African flora and fauna. Within Africa and elsewhere, DNA barcoding and related techniques are being increasingly used for wildlife forensics and for the validation of commercial products, such as medicinal plants and seafood species. A striking trend of the conference is the dramatic rise of studies on environmental DNA (eDNA) and on diverse uses of high-throughput sequencing techniques. Emerging techniques in these areas are opening new avenues for environmental biomonitoring, managing species-at-risk and invasive species, and revealing species interaction networks in unprecedented detail. Contributors call for the development of validated community standards for high-throughput sequence data generation and analysis, to enable the full potential of these methods to be realized for understanding and managing biodiversity on a global scale.