According to a new study by conservation biologists, climate change is dangerous not only to the existence of certain species, but also to genetic diversity, says Nature News' Virginia Gewin. According to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, DNA analyses of certain species have found "a vast amount of cryptic diversity" that may be affected as temperatures rise across the globe, Gewin says. The researchers studied aquatic insects — chosen because they are likely to be vulnerable to rising temperatures — and measured their genetic diversity by sequencing their mitochondrial genes. Each species was then divided into a number of "evolutionary significant units" to measure how many genetically distinct populations existed within each species, Gewin says. Using two models of climate change developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the team found that 79 percent of these evolutionary significant units are projected to become extinct by 2080, if climate change continues unabated. "This lost evolutionary potential could hinder species' ability to adapt to change," Gewin says.
Climate Change and the Loss of Potential
Aug 22, 2011