Population-level genetic variation and climate change in a biodiversity hotspot

Estimated future climate scenarios can be used to predict where hotspots of endemism may occur over the next century, but life history, ecological and genetic traits will be important in informing the varying responses within myriad taxa. Essential to predicting the consequences of climate change to individual species will be an understanding of the factors that drive genetic structure within and among populations.

Understanding the distribution of genetic variation on the landscape and the life history or ecological parameters that influence this variation will be important in identifying the taxa most vulnerable to anthropogenic change

Persistence in the face of climate change is likely determined by life history characteristics: dispersal ability, generation time, reproductive ability, degree of habitat specialization, plant–insect interactions, existing genetic diversity and availability of habitat or migration corridors. Existing levels of genetic diversity in plant populations vary based on a number of evolutionary scenarios that include endemism, expansion since the last glacial maximum, breeding system and current range sizes.

K. Schirenbeck shows that the prediction of species’ responses to climate change will require an integrated approach, utilising population genetics, geography, paleontology and multiple ecological parameters in order to predict and prioritize those conservation areas that are threatened by rapid climate change, anthropogenic disturbance and invasive species.

Endemism Hotspots Cover

This article is part of the AoB Special Issue on Endemism Hotspots as Climate Change Refugia, which is free access for a couple of months, then behind the paywall for a while before being free access after February 2017.

Reference List

Schierenbeck, K. A. (2017). Population-level genetic variation and climate change in a biodiversity hotspot. Annals of Botany, 119(2), 215–228. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcw214