By now, everyone has heard of global warming and the horrible effects it will continue to have upon life on Earth. Many studies that have shown the consequences of climate change on biodiversity. This study performed by scientists from Norway, Austria, and France, however, sheds new light on these consequences by taking into account genetic variations within a species, rather than looking at a species as a whole.
These scientists set out to “estimate loss of genetic diversity by loss of habitat” for different plant species “under different climate scenarios”. After analyzing nearly 10,000 samples from 27 plant species in Arctic environments of central Europe, it was shown that those species that used wind and birds for seed dispersal will preserve greater genetic diversity in a warmer climate than species that have more limited seed dispersion. Additionally, the longer lifespan of species such as trees and shrubs are able to disperse their seeds more productively than shorter-lived species, such as herbs.
Genetic variation, in short, is essential for adaptation during a changing climate. Seed dispersion is one factor that will determine how various plant species fare with the upcoming climate changes. Some species may lose up to 80% of their habitat but will still maintain most (90%) of their genetic diversity. Others will lose 50% of their genetic diversity when their habitat is reduced by 65%.
These new findings will have important effects on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List that identifies threatened species. With future climate changes, this list will grow extensively.
Discussion Question: What are some other factors, in addition to seed dispersion, that could have an important impact on the survival fitness of Arctic plant species?
Also, how do you think the criteria of which plants make the Red List will be affected with these new findings?
Image Source: http://www.farnorthscience.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/svalbardplants.jpg
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