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Effects of climate change on past, recent, and future biodiversity of alpine/arctic plants: Integrative evidence from phylogenies, population genetics, ecological niche modelling and new insights for conservation

English title Effects of climate change on past, recent, and future biodiversity of alpine/arctic plants: Integrative evidence from phylogenies, population genetics, ecological niche modelling and new insights for conservation
Applicant Conti Elena
Number 132471
Funding scheme ProDoc
Research institution Institut für Systematische Botanik und Botanischer Garten Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Botany
Start/End 01.02.2011 - 31.01.2015
Approved amount 400'000.00
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Keywords (19)

rare; endemic species; plant distribution; genetic diversity; secondary contact model; Climate Change; Biodiversity; Alpine plants; Adaptation; Refugia; Dispersal; Phylogeography; Pleistocene Glacial Cycles; Ecological Niche Models; Species Distribution Models; Hindcasting; Forecasting; Rare plants; Conservation Biology

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Responding to the twin crises of global warming and biodiversity loss requires a deep understanding of how climate affects the processes that generate and destroy biodiversity, primarily through its effects on the ecology and distribution of species and communities. In this project, we use a combination of ecological niche models (ENMs) and genetic tools to predict the evolution of ecological preferences and distributional ranges from the present, to the past and into the future.
Lay summary
Responding to the twin crises of global warming and biodiversity loss requires a deep understanding of how climate affects the processes that generate and destroy biodiversity, primarily through its effects on the ecology and distribution of species. Recent improvements in our ability to reconstruct the history of biodiversity through timed phylogenies, estimate changes in genetic diversity, and predict the potential distribution of selected species with ecological niche models (ENMs) now allow us to infer the evolution of ecological preferences and distributional ranges at different temporal scales.
Our two case studies focus on alpine/arctic regions, because they are among those most endangered by global warming. The first study will use, for the first time, a combination of ENM and phylogeny to test the model of hybrid, polyploid speciation by secondary contact in arctic/alpine plants. We selected Primula sect. Aleuritia (simply Aleuritia, from here on), because our previous phylogenetic work provided clear hypotheses for the parental origins of polyploids, yet the distributions of the inferred progenitors do not currently overlap. Did the ranges of the proposed parents overlap at the time of allopolyploid origins, as predicted by the secondary contact model? To answer this question, we will produce a high-resolution, dated phylogeny of Aleuritia, optimize the ecological preferences of the hypothesized progenitors onto the dated phylogeny, and project their past distributional ranges onto the fine-resolution climatic scenarios recently developed for the Pleistocene.
In the second case study, we will try to explain how small populations persisted on summits in the past and how they are affected by current and future climate change. Here we selected Saxifraga florulenta, a rare, endemic species of the Maritime Alps, because hypotheses of its phylogenetic relationships are available from our previous work, it occurs exclusively above 2000 m, and has very narrow ecological requirements. Consequently, if current trends of global warming continue, the strict ecological adaptation of S. florulenta to siliceous substrates at the highest altitudes of the Maritime Alps may represent a serious extinction risk. We will investigate whether the phylogeographic history, genetic diversity, climatic niche and dispersal mode of S. florulenta can explain its long persistence in the Maritime Alps, a hot spot of biodiversity, and predict its future survival or extinction on mountain tops. We will use a combination of genetic analysis and niche modeling to reconstruct changes in the niche, geographic distribution, and genetic diversity of this cold-adapted species.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 14.03.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
How do cold-adapted plants respond to climatic cycles? Interglacial expansion explains current distribution and genomic diversity in Primula farinosa L.
Theodoridis Spyros, Randin Christophe F., Szövényi Peter, Boucher Florian C., Patsiou Theofania S., Conti Elena (2017), How do cold-adapted plants respond to climatic cycles? Interglacial expansion explains current distribution and genomic diversity in Primula farinosa L., in Systematic Biology, syw114.
The contribution of cold air pooling to the distribution of a rare and endemic plant of the Alps
Patsiou Theofania S., Conti Elena, Theodoridis Spyros, Randin Christophe F. (2017), The contribution of cold air pooling to the distribution of a rare and endemic plant of the Alps, in Plant Ecology & Diversity, 1-14.
Topo-climatic microrefugia explain the persistence of a rare endemic plant in the Alps during the last 21 millennia
Patsiou Theofania S, Theodoridis Spyros, Conti Elena, Randin Christoph F (2014), Topo-climatic microrefugia explain the persistence of a rare endemic plant in the Alps during the last 21 millennia, in Global Change Biology, 20(7), 2286-2300.
Divergent and narrower climatic niches characterize polyploid species of European primroses in Primula sect. Aleuritia.
Theodoridis Spyros, Randin Christophe F., Broennimann Oliver, Patsiou Theofania S., Conti Elena (2013), Divergent and narrower climatic niches characterize polyploid species of European primroses in Primula sect. Aleuritia., in Journal of Biogeography , 40(7), 1278-1289.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne (Olivier Broennimann, in Guisan group) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
WSL Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Sapienza Universita di Roma, Department of Animal and Human Biology, Roma Italy (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
University of Basel - Christian Körner research group Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Dept. of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Parco Regionale Alpi Marittime Italy (Europe)
- Research Infrastructure
Le Parc National du Mercantour France (Europe)
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Botany2016 Talk given at a conference Reproductive barriers between heterostylous primroses (contributed talk) 30.07.2016 Savannah, United States of America Theodoridis Spyros; Conti Elena;
Evolution2016 Talk given at a conference Reproductive barriers between heterostylous primroses (contributed talk) 17.06.2016 Austin, United States of America Theodoridis Spyros; Conti Elena;
Departmental seminar at University of Göttingen Individual talk The roles of reproductive traits, genome duplications, and ecological preferences in evolution: examples from primroses (invited talk) 09.06.2016 Göttingen, Germany Conti Elena;
109th conference of the Italian Botanical Society Talk given at a conference Processes and outcomes of diversification in Primulaceae (invited plenary talk) 02.09.2014 Florence, Italy Conti Elena;
Plant Radiation Conference, University of Zurich Talk given at a conference Processes and outcomes of diversification in Primulaceae: Explorations on the functional and evolutionary roles of heterostyly (invited talk) 13.06.2014 Zurich, Switzerland Conti Elena;
Conference of the European Geosciences Union Poster Quantifying the discrepancy between regional climate and climate in the micro-habitats of a rare and endemic plant of the Alps 28.05.2014 Vienna, Austria Patsiou Theofania-Sotiria; Randin Christophe; Conti Elena; Theodoridis Spyros;
European Geosciences Union Talk given at a conference European Geosciences Union 28.04.2014 Vienna, Austria Patsiou Theofania-Sotiria;
SWISSPLANT 2014 Symposium Talk given at a conference Topo-climatic microrefugia explain the persistence of a rare endemic plant in the Alps during the last 21 millennia 29.01.2014 Meiringen, Switzerland Conti Elena; Theodoridis Spyros; Randin Christophe; Patsiou Theofania-Sotiria;
Departmental seminar at Leuven University Individual talk The adaptive and evolutionary roles of floral dimorphism in primroses (invited talk) 22.01.2014 Brussels, Belgium Conti Elena;
Early Career Conference of The International Biogeography Society Talk given at a conference Integrating paleodistribution modeling and next generation statistical phylogeography to explain the effects of Quaternary climatic oscillations in alpine-arctic plants (invited talk) 07.01.2014 Canberra, Australia Theodoridis Spyros; Conti Elena;
II Iberian Congress of Biological Systematics Talk given at a conference Patterns and processes of evolution at different temporal and spatial scales (invited plenary talk) 25.09.2013 Barcelona, Spain Conti Elena;
Past, Present and Future Dynamics of Alpine and Arctic Flora under Climate Change Talk given at a conference Topo-climatic microrefugia explain the persistence of a rare endemic plant in the Alps during the last 21 millennia 22.09.2013 Kurhaus Bergün, Grisons, Switzerland Randin Christophe;
INTernational ECOLogy Talk given at a conference Topo‐climatic microrefugia explain the persistence of a rare endemic in the Alps during the last 21 millennia (contributed talk) 18.08.2013 London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Conti Elena; Randin Christophe; Patsiou Theofania-Sotiria;
Departmental seminar at University of Padova Individual talk Patterns and processes of diversification in flowering plants (invited talk) 02.05.2013 Padova, Italy Conti Elena;
Biology13 Talk given at a conference Topo ‐ climatic microrefugia explain the persistence of a rare endemic in the Alps during the last 21 millennia (contributed talk) 07.02.2013 Basel, Switzerland Theodoridis Spyros; Randin Christophe; Patsiou Theofania-Sotiria; Conti Elena;
Symposium in honor of Tod Stuessy Talk given at a conference The evolutionary role of heterostyly in primroses (invited talk) 09.11.2012 Vienna, Austria Conti Elena;
Collaborative meeting with Prof. P Gilmartin, University of East Anglia Individual talk Research on primroses in Conti’s lab (invited talk) 29.08.2012 Norwich, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Conti Elena;
Symposium in honor of Spencer Barrett Talk given at a conference Heterostyly, polyploidy, and speciation in primroses (invited talk) 24.08.2012 Zürich, Switzerland Conti Elena;
Sino-Swiss Plant Science Workshop Talk given at a conference Using Darwin’s primroses as a model for the evolution of reproductive strategies and ploidy levels (invited talk) 19.08.2012 Basel, Switzerland Conti Elena;
Meeting of the scientific committee of bioGENESIS/DIVERSITAS Talk given at a conference Effects of climate change on Past, Present, and Future Biodiversity of Alpine/Arctic Plants (invited talk) 16.06.2012 Bonito, Brazil Conti Elena;
First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology (‘Evolution 2012’) Talk given at a conference Divergent and narrower climatic niches characterize polyploid species of European primroses in Primula sect. Aleuritia (contributed talk) 06.06.2012 Ottawa, Canada, Canada Theodoridis Spyros; Conti Elena; Randin Christophe; Patsiou Theofania-Sotiria;
Departmental seminar at EPFL Lausanne Individual talk Primroses: Darwin’s model system for the evolution of reproductive strategies and ploidy levels (invited talk) 04.06.2012 Lausanne, Switzerland Conti Elena;
Plant Sciences & Policy PSC Prodoc and Mercator Fellowships Symposium Talk given at a conference Progress report on research by the two Ph.D. studens Spyros Theodoridis and Theofania Patsiou 09.05.2012 Zurich, Switzerland Theodoridis Spyros; Patsiou Theofania-Sotiria; Conti Elena; Randin Christophe;
Departmental seminar at University of Vienna Individual talk Heterostyly, polyploidy, and speciation in primroses (invited talk) 26.04.2012 Vienna, Austria Conti Elena;
Adaptive landscape genetics Symposium Talk given at a conference Environmental data for landscape-genetic analysis: what data should I get, how can I get them (and sometimes how can I get there)? 07.02.2012 Neuchatel, Switzerland, Switzerland Conti Elena; Randin Christophe; Patsiou Theofania-Sotiria;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Other activities BIO222: Molecular Evolution and Phylogenetics; Course taught at U Zurich German-speaking Switzerland 2014
Other activities BIO226: Introduction to evol. ecol. genomics & mol. adaptations...; Course taught at U Zurich German-speaking Switzerland 2014
Other activities BIO232: Macroecology, Niche Evolution, and Climate Change; Course taught at U Zurich German-speaking Switzerland 2014
Talks/events/exhibitions Oral presentation on ISEB and Bot. Garden for politicians of Kanton Zurich and Kanton Uri German-speaking Switzerland 2014
Other activities 30000-01 Spatio-temporal biodiversity models; Course taught at U Basel German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Talks/events/exhibitions Award Ceremony for the first cycle of Environmental Schools in Zurich (with Frau Regine Aeppli) German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Other activities BIO221: Plant - Insect interactions: ecological and evolutionary aspects; Course taught at U Zurich German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Other activities BIO226: Evol. & Ecol. Genomics: Applications and Analysis; Course taught at U Zurich German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Talks/events/exhibitions Meeting of the Chinese Association for Life Sciences in Switzerland (CALSS) German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Talks/events/exhibitions Official dedication of the renovated, public greenhouses at the Botanic Garden German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Talks/events/exhibitions Oral presentation on ISEB and Bot. Garden for the executive board of the University of Zurich German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Talks/events/exhibitions Oral presentation on ISEB and Bot. Garden for the septennial internat. evaluation of the said unit German-speaking Switzerland 2013
Talks/events/exhibitions All taxa biodiversity Mercantour-Alpi Marittime International 2012
Talks/events/exhibitions Coordinator and host for the visit to the Botanical Garden and ISEB by Kathy Riklin German-speaking Switzerland 2012
Talks/events/exhibitions Opening of the exhibition on Karl Schinz at the Old Botanic Garden German-speaking Switzerland 2012
Talks/events/exhibitions The role of botanic gardens in cities worldwide, talk at the 175th Anniv. of the Old Bot. Garden German-speaking Switzerland 2012

Awards

Title Year
In January 2014, Ph.D. student Spyros Theodoridis was invited to present an oral presentation in Canberra (Australia), at the annual meeting of the International Society of Biogeography, on the first paper generated during the grant period (published in the Journal of Biogeography) 2014

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
61674 Phylogeny and evolution of breeding systems in the plant genus Primula, with emphasis on sect. Aleuritia Duby 01.01.2001 Project funding
139418 Population genetics of the endangered and endemic species Primula boveana in South Sinai, Egypt. 01.09.2011 International short research visits
139921 PSC Plant Science Family Program 01.05.2012 Agora
175556 The evolutionary roles of hybridization and introgression: investigating species and genomic boundaries under climate change (Primula genomics: PrimGEN) 01.10.2018 Project funding
129170 Genetic Diversity of Island Endemics in the Mediterranean Region: Comparison between Oceanic and Continental Islands 01.03.2010 Marie Heim-Voegtlin grants
127227 PSC "Plant Sciences and Policy" 01.11.2009 ProDoc

Abstract

Responding to the twin crises of global warming and biodiversity loss requires a deep understanding of how climate affects the processes that generate and destroy biodiversity, primarily through its effects on the ecology and distribution of species and communities. Recent improvements in our ability to reconstruct the history of biodiversity through timed phylogenies, estimate changes in genetic diversity, and predict the potential distribution of selected species with ecological niche models (ENMs) now allow us to infer the evolution of ecological preferences and distributional ranges at different temporal scales, from the present, to the past and the future. Newly trained scientists are thus in a unique position to influence the future of biodiversity with this new integrative knowledge, as long as they are also trained in communication and policy skills. We believe that the two Ph.D. students working on our research module will have a special opportunity to learn: (i) the theoretical and practical skills necessary to explain changes in species richness at different temporal and spatial scales and (ii) how to apply this scientific knowledge for conservation purposes in a way that benefits society as a whole through the specialized courses on environmental policy and communication offered by the Pro-Doc program of the Plant Science Center.Our research focuses on alpine/arctic regions, because several studies have shown that they are among those most endangered by global warming. Case Study 1 will use, for the first time, a combination of ENM and phylogeny to test the model of allopolyploid speciation by secondary contact in arctic/alpine plants. We selected Primula sect. Aleuritia (simply Aleuritia, from here on), because our previous phylogenetic work provided clear hypotheses for the parental origins of the hexaploid P. scotica and the octaploid P. scandinavica. However, the current areas of distribution of the inferred progenitors of the polyploids do not overlap. Did the ranges of the proposed parents overlap at the time of allopolyploid origins, as predicted by the secondary contact model? To answer this question, we will produce a high-resolution, dated phylogeny of Aleuritia, optimize the ecological preferences of the hypothesized progenitors onto the dated phylogeny, and project their past distributional ranges onto the fine-resolution climatic scenarios recently developed for the Pleistocene. Additionally, we will test, also for the first time, whether island colonization by species with specialized breeding systems (i.e. the heterostylous P. farinosa) is associated with a shift of the ecological niche, reduction of genetic variation, and change of reproductive strategy (from heterostylous/obligate outcrossing, to homostylous/facultative selfing).While in the first case study we use arctic islands to understand how climate change in the past may lead to a change in reproductive strategy, Case Study 2 will focus on islands in the sky (i.e., mountain tops) to explain how small populations persisted on summits in the past and how they are affected by current and future climate change. Here we selected Saxifraga florulenta, a rare, endemic species of the Maritime Alps, because hypotheses of its phylogenetic relationships are available from our previous work, it occurs exclusively above 2000 m, and has very exacting ecological requirements. Consequently, if current trends of global warming continue, the strict ecological adaptation of S. florulenta to siliceous substrates at the highest altitudes of the Maritime Alps may represent a serious extinction risk. We will investigate whether the phylogeographic history, genetic diversity, climatic niche and dispersal mode of S. florulenta can explain its long persistence in the Maritime Alps, a hot spot of biodiversity, and predict its future survival or extinction on mountain tops. We will use a combination of genetic analysis and niche modeling to reconstruct changes in the niche, geographic distribution, and genetic diversity of this cold-adapted species.The two case studies will also allow us to compare the effects of climate change on the future distributions of widespread vs. endemic species and of species with specialized breeding systems (i.e. heterostyly). The results will thus contribute to: (a) develop a new theoretical framework for the influence of climate change on speciation mechanisms and reproductive strategies in plants; (b) generate an improved modeling framework that incorporates critical population size and evolutionary processes into ENM projections; and (c) inform conservation strategies with sound knowledge of the evolutionary and ecological potential for adaptation to changing environmental requirements in arctic/alpine plants.
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