Use DNA to learn from the past: how modern and ancient DNA studies may help reveal the past and predict the future distribution of species

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Inger Greve Alsos, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway
Knowledge of how climate change affected species distribution in the past may help us predict the effect of ongoing environmental changes. We explore how the use of modern (AFLP fingerprinting techniques) and ancient DNA (metabarcoding P6 loop of chloroplast DNA) help to reveal past distribution of vascular plant species, dispersal processes, and effect of species traits. Based on studies of modern DNA combined with species distribution models, we show the dispersal routes and barriers to dispersal throughout the circumarctic/circumboreal region, likely dispersal vectors, the cost of dispersal in term of loss of genetic diversity, and how these relates to species traits, dispersal distance, and size of colonized region. We also estimate the expected future distribution and loss of genetic diversity and show how this relates to life form and adaptations to dispersal. To gain more knowledge on time lags in past range change events, we rely on palaeorecords. Current data on past distribution are limited by the taxonomic and time resolution of macrofossil and pollen records. We show how this may be improved by studying ancient DNA of lake sediments. DNA of lake sediments recorded about half of the flora surrounding the lake. Compared to macrofossil, the taxonomic resolution is similar but the detection rate is considerable improved. By taking into account main determinants of founder effect, dispersal vectors, and dispersal lags, we may improve our ability to forecast effects of climate change, whereas more studies on ancient DNA may provide us with knowledge on distribution time lags.