Climate change and habitat destruction may already have caused the loss of more than a tenth of the world’s terrestrial genetic diversity, according to new research led by Carnegie’s Moises Exposito-Alonso and published in Sciences. This means that it may already be too late to meet the proposed UN target, announced last year, to protect 90 percent of each species’ genetic diversity by 2030, and we must act quickly to prevent further losses.
several hundred Ocean Many animals and plants became extinct in the Industrial Age and human activity affected or reduced half of the Earth’s ecosystems, affecting millions of species. The partial loss of geographic range is diminished population size It can geographically prevent groups of the same type from interacting with each other. This has serious implications for the genetic richness of an animal or plant and its ability to meet the challenges ahead Climate change.
“When you take in or fundamentally change tracts of a species’ habitat, you are restricting the genetic richness available to help those plants and animals adapt to changing conditions,” explained Exposito Alonso, who holds one of the most prestigious positions as a staff partner at Carnegie. Early Career Excellence – He is also an Assistant Professor, by courtesy, at Stanford University.
Until recently, this important component was overlooked when setting goals for biodiversity conservation, but without a reliable variety of natural genetic mutations, species would be limited in their ability to survive changes in their geographic range.
In popular culture, mutations convey supernatural powers that defy the laws of physics. But in reality, mutations represent small, random natural variations in genetic code It can positively or negatively affect an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce, and transmit positive traits to future generations.
“As a result, the greater the range of mutations a species can rely on, the greater the chances of stumbling into that lucky mix that will help the species thrive despite the stresses caused by habitat loss, as well as changing temperature and rainfall patterns,” added Exposito Alonso. .
He and his collaborators proceeded to develop a framework based on population genetics to assess the mutation richness of available species within a given region.
They analyzed the genomic data of more than 10,000 individual organisms across 20 different species to prove that the land plant and animal life It could already be at a much greater risk of losing genetic diversity than previously thought. Because the rate at which genetic diversity It is recovered much slower than that which is lost, and researchers are of the opinion that it is effectively irreversible.
Exposito Alonso concluded, “The mathematical tool we tested in 20 species can be extended to make approximate genetic predictions for the conservation of additional species, even if we don’t know their genomes.” “I think our findings can be used to assess and track new global sustainability goals, but there is still a lot of uncertainty. We need to do a better job monitoring populations of species and developing more genetic tools.”
said Margaret McFall-Ngai, director of the newly launched Carnegie Division of Biosphere Science and Engineering. “This kind of intellectual courage illustrates Carnegie’s model of practicing science out of the box and the kind of work that is the hallmark of our prestigious employee assistant program.”
The research team included members of the Exposito-Alonso Laboratory—Lucas Cheek, Lauren Gillespie, Shannon Hatley, Laura Leventhal, Megan Raffley, Sebastian Toro Arana, and Irene Zeiss—plus collaborators Tom Booker from the University of British Columbia; Christopher Kyriazis of the University of California. Patricia Lang, Veronica Bagowski, Jeffrey Spence, and Clemence Weiss of Stanford University; and David Nojes Bravo of the University of Copenhagen.
Moises Exposito-Alonso, Loss of Genetic Diversity in the Anthropocene, Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1126 / science.abn5642. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abn5642
Carnegie Institution for Science
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