Living organisms can show different responses to climate change. One of them is to migrate both in altitude and/or in latitude in search of more favorable conditions. However, for some species, effective migration is hard to achieve due to habitat fragmentation and limited dispersal. In such cases, these species must adapt to the new environmental conditions, either by non-genetic adaptation (phenotypic plasticity) or by evolutionary adaptation.
Some populations experience difficulties adapting genetically to new conditions because they lack the necessary genetic diversity or cannot adapt fast enough to cope with climate change. A potential conservation strategy little studied until now involves selecting and maintaining genetic diversity of adaptive value to endow evolutionary resilience to target populations. Thus, the concept of “assisted evolution” encompasses any action in which there is an intentional human intervention on any of the four evolutionary forces (mutation, genetic drift, genetic flow and selection) for conservation purposes.
In this context, the objective of the project is to assess the use of selection and genetic flow as tools to facilitate adaptation and increase the evolutionary resilience of populations affected by climate change. The research will focus on the advance of flowering onset, a trait of enormous adaptive importance in the context of the effects of climate warming. Working with two species of different life cycle and contrasting breeding systems (Lupinus angustifolius and Silene ciliata), the effectiveness of these tools on species with different life history traits will be evaluated. In parallel, the associated genetic risks will be evaluated through the study of potential genetic and phenotypic responses correlated with flowering onset that may also affect the fitness of individuals. The obtained results will help in assessing the feasibility of this type of actions and establishing, when appropriate, the necessary conditions for their application.