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Climate change threatens genetic diversity, future of world's caribou
Date:12/16/2013

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.


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Contact: Marie Thoms
methoms@alaska.edu
907-460-1841
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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