Article alert: Consequences of Range Contractions and Range Shifts on Molecular Diversity

By performing complex computer simulations, researchers from the Universitiy of Berne, The University of Geneva and from the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB): Miguel Arenas, Nicolas Ray, Mathias Currat and Laurent Excoffier, show the impact of range contractions and range shifts on genetic diversity. This study was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

In periods of climatic changes, the range of most species is changing dramatically, with range contractions, range expansions or range shifts. However, whereas the effect of range expansions has been extensively studied, the molecular consequences of the other processes have been little investigated. In order to fill this gap, the authors have simulated the expected molecular diversity of species going through various types of range contractions and range shifts.

As expected, range contractions tend to decrease levels of genetic diversity relative to species with stable ranges, but quite counter-intuitively, fast range contractions preserve higher levels of diversity and induce lower levels of genetic differentiation among refuge areas than slow contractions. Also surprising, species able to sense the environmental changes and actively migrating towards more favourable habitats in refuge areas do not necessarily preserve more genetic diversity than species simply dying off outside refuge areas. Indeed when range contractions are slow a strategy consisting in actively migrating towards refugia lead to a larger loss of diversity as compared to species migrating in random directions.

Levels of genetic diversity preserved after a climate change will thus not only depend on the dispersal abilities of a species but also on the speed of the changes and on migration strategies. It implies that a given episode of climatic change will impact species differently according to their generation times. Particularly, the authors predict that species with long generations are more likely to have developed active migration strategies towards high quality environments than short-lived species, and they should generally suffer less from the effect of a climatic change of a given duration.

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Web Page Consequences of Range Contractions and Range Shifts on Molecular Diversity (Original Source)
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