Life

Study: Genetic diversity monitoring important as climate changes

Fot. Adobe Stock
Fot. Adobe Stock

For the protection of plants and animals, it becomes important to monitor changes that occur in the genomes of individual species with climate change, especially in the driest and warmest areas, believe researchers from an international team, including scientists from Poland.

'Global CO2 production in 2022 increased unabated globally and the resulting climate change is already having documented effects on populations of species. These effects are moderated by variation at adaptively significant loci in the genome, which markedly influence the climate tolerances of populations. Identifying this variation will allow managers to take it into account in conservation planning and execution,’ says a press release from the Institute of Nature Conservation of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Aleksandra Biedrzycka and Dr. Maciej Konopiński from the Institute of Nature Conservation PAN are co-authors of the paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-023-02260-0).

Scientists from this team (Pearman, Broennimann et al.) have identified geographical areas that correspond to conditions near the warm/dry climate tolerance limits for 147 species of plants and animals that are of current and potential future conservation and management concern.

'With increasing temperatures and dryness, the warm-marginal areas will become increasingly uninhabitable by species,’ the Institute says.

Meanwhile, the scientists believe that as much as a quarter of populations occur in areas bordering their range.

'But because populations in these areas have a history of exposure to relatively warm, dry conditions, they also likely have genetic variants that confer adaptation to these conditions. Assuming sufficient genetic exchange (gene flow), these genetic variants could be important to the continuing adaptation of core populations as environmental quality in core areas declines due to climate change,’ the scientists write.

However, because of the pace of climate change, important genetic variants in environmentally marginal populations are at risk of being lost as climate in these areas degrades, and eventually exceeds species' environmental tolerances.

 

Therefore, it is extremely important to conduct genetic monitoring of such marginal populations.

 

The authors identify areas that likely hold important genetic variation for multiple species, providing target areas for future genetic evaluation and monitoring.

 

As for our continent, the vast majority of these areas are located in southern and southeastern Europe, which suggests the need for extended genetic monitoring of these areas.

The authors also evaluate the preparedness of countries to monitor effects of climate change on genetic diversity by comprehensively documenting historical and ongoing efforts to monitor population genetic diversity in the 32 countries in the European Cooperation in Science and Technology program, COST.

According to the study, surprisingly little genetic monitoring has been conducted through the end of 2021. 'Notably, relatively little monitoring effort has been conducted in southeastern Europe (in Turkey and Balkan countries), where based on patterns of niche marginality the need for genetic monitoring is high,’ says the press release. The authors suggest the need to intensify genetic monitoring in these areas.

They add that the EU Habitats and Birds Directives can be used to enhance and strengthen monitoring efforts across much of Europe. Under the new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), such efforts are compulsory for participating countries.

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