Navigation Links
Climate change threatens genetic diversity, future of world's caribou

Caribou in southern and eastern Canada may disappear from most of their current range in 60 years if climate change takes the toll on their habitat that scientists predict in a paper appearing online Dec. 15 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Scientists looked at reservoirs of genetic diversity in caribou and whether that diversity was linked to stable habitats. They found that caribou populations in the most climatically stable areas had the greatest genetic diversity and note that future climate forecasts bode ill for both caribou habitat and their genes.

"Caribou can respond to habitat change in three ways," said Kris Hundertmark, co-author and wildlife biologist-geneticist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "They can move to new, suitable habitat, adapt to the changed habitat or die."

Caribou populations are predicted to become more isolated and fragmented as climate change shrinks habitat and as caribou have fewer opportunities for genes to flow between individuals and herds, explained Hundertmark.

"When a population loses genetic diversity, they lose the ability to adapt to change," Hundertmark said, adding that although Alaska herds are expected to fair slightly better at least in the near future, they are still facing significant challenges.

"Climate change in Alaska means we're going to see more fires and while that's good for moose, it's really bad for caribou," said Hundertmark, "because it's going to burn lichen beds that can take at least 50 years to recover and reduce viable caribou habitat."

Hundertmark and then-graduate student Karen Mager who collected 655 tissues samples from 20 of Alaska's 32 herds developed genetic profiles of Alaska's caribou. The two credit a successful collaboration with state and federal fish and game biologists and hunters over several years with making sample collection possible.

The scientists, part of a team headed by researchers at Laval University in Quebec, used climate reconstructions from 21,000 years ago to the present to predict where caribou habitat would likely exist and they matched reservoirs of high genetic diversity to areas with the most stable habitat over time.

Bolstered by the success of their retrospective analysis the scientists forecast caribou habitat to the year 2080 using a 'business-as-usual' climate model the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's A1B model. The outcome is grim.

"Those caribou herds that shift their range to remain within their habitat and those herds that are reduced in size and become isolated from neighboring herds are those most threatened with loss of genetic diversity," said Hundertmark. "That is why it is important to know what areas will be have the most habitat stability in the future."

The team predicts that viable caribou habitat will shift north, the southernmost herds will disappear and herds in northeastern North America will become more threatened with extinction, losing up to 89% of their current habitat.

Caribou in western North America will also be affected, although to a lesser extent, and have a better chance of retaining what remains of genetic diversity and therefore adaptability to change.

"This study gives us strong evidence from a widespread species that the stability of the climate makes a difference in the amount of genetic diversity retained within a species," said Mager.


Contact: Marie Thoms
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Related biology news :

1. New study will help protect vulnerable birds from impacts of climate change
2. EU-funded study underlines importance of Congo Basin for global climate and biodiversity
3. UNH researchers find African farmers need better climate change data to improve farming practices
4. Fielding questions about climate change
5. Glacier-fed river systems threatened by climate change
6. Beating famine: Sustainable food security through land regeneration in a changing climate
7. Energy requirements make Antarctic fur seal pups vulnerable to climate change
8. Why spring is blooming marvelous (and climate change makes it earlier)
9. Carnegies Greg Asner named Energy/Climate Fellow by US State Department
10. Declines in Caribbean coral reefs pre-date damage resulting from climate change
11. Some corals like it hot: Heat stress may help coral reefs survive climate change
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions , ... entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce ... Tech Association (MHTA) as one of only three finalists ... "Software – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor ... have shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... RESTON, Va. , Oct. 29, 2015 ... announced today that it has released a new version ... Daon customers in North America ... gains. IdentityX v4.0 also includes a FIDO UAF ... customers are already preparing to activate FIDO features. These ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... BOSTON , Oct. 29, 2015  Connected health ... phenomena driving the explosion of technology-enabled health and wellness, ... his new book, The Internet of Healthy ... apps, sensors or smartphones even existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice ... model of health care delivery, moving care from the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... Florida (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... biggest event of the year and one of the premier annual events for ... and ran from 8–11 November 2015, where ISPE hosted the largest number of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... India , November 24, 2015 ... a new market research report "Oligonucleotide Synthesis Market by ... Application (PCR, Gene Synthesis, Diagnostic, DNA, RNAi), End-User (Research, ... 2020", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market is expected to ... Million in 2015, at a CAGR of 10.1% during ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 SHPG ) announced today that ... Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference in ... at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> SHPG ... will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare ... Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... (the "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 ... Common Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") ... agreement were exercised on November 23, 2015, which ... Common Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance ...
Breaking Biology Technology: