Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

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

Date:
December 16, 2013
Source:
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Summary:
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. Scientists looked at reservoirs of genetic diversity in caribou and whether that diversity was linked to stable habitats.

Caribou.
Credit: © cec72 / Fotolia

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.

Related Articles


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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alaska Fairbanks. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Glenn Yannic, Loïc Pellissier, Joaquín Ortego, Nicolas Lecomte, Serge Couturier, Christine Cuyler, Christian Dussault, Kris J. Hundertmark, R. Justin Irvine, Deborah A. Jenkins, Leonid Kolpashikov, Karen Mager, Marco Musiani, Katherine L. Parker, Knut H. Røed, Taras Sipko, Skarphéðinn G. Þórisson, Byron V. Weckworth, Antoine Guisan, Louis Bernatchez, Steeve D. Côté. Genetic diversity in caribou linked to past and future climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2074

Cite This Page:

University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Climate change threatens genetic diversity, future of world's caribou." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216095540.htm>.
University of Alaska Fairbanks. (2013, December 16). Climate change threatens genetic diversity, future of world's caribou. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216095540.htm
University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Climate change threatens genetic diversity, future of world's caribou." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216095540.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) — The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Controversial French Dam Halted After Death of Protester

Controversial French Dam Halted After Death of Protester

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) — Local French authorities Friday decided to suspend work on a controversial dam after the death last week of an activist protesting against the project that sparked uproar in the country. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) — A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Hawaii Lava Inches Closer

Raw: Hawaii Lava Inches Closer

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) — Aerial video shows the path lava has carved across a portion of Hawaii's big island, threatening homes in the town of Pahoa. Officials say the flow was just over 230 yards from a roadway Thursday morning. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins