An Anthropocene map of genetic diversity

A new, groundbreaking method links genes and geography and draws for the first time a map of how species’ genetic diversity is distributed globally. The map opens up the way to understand how life is formed on Earth, and how human activity has already transformed the surface of the Earth, and thus reduced genetic diversity within animals – putting them at higher risk of extinction.

The study has recently been published in the scientific journal Science, and can be read here.

First-author and postdoctoral researcher Andreia Miraldo, from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, explains:
Having genetic variation within a population means that whilst some individuals die from changed conditions in their living environment, like an increase in temperature, others are able to survive because they are different at the genetic level and therefore possess different traits. In this sense, genetic diversity within species determines their ability to survive the increasing human impacts on the environment like climate change.”

lemurWhile the tropics constitute hotspots of genetic diversity, the study shows that it decreases when moving towards the Polar Regions. Last author and Associate Professor David Nogués-Bravo, elaborates:
This suggests that the long history of human presence and heavy alteration of nature, has taken its toll on genetic diversity. This leaves species in Europe and other areas altered by humans extra vulnerable to environmental change because low genetic diversity entails a higher risk of becoming extinct.

To conduct the study the scientists pulled together more than ninety thousands genetic sequences from amphibians and terrestrial mammals that were available online. By attaching geographic coordinates to each sequence they were able to calculate genetic diversity in hundreds of localities throughout the world, allowing the team to map, for the first time, the distribution of genetic diversity on Earth.

Read the press release from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate here

Read more about the new findings at Videnskab.dk (in Danish)

 

 



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