Rapid anthropogenic climate change is eroding global biodiversity and predicting species responses to climate oscillations is crucial to forecast consequences of global warming. Environmental change-induced hybridization may be common phenomena in contact zones between genetically differentiated populations or evolutionarily significant units (ESUs), and although it may cause diversity lose by genome replacement and consequently fitness declines, hybridization may also increase the evolutionary potential of populations and facilitate adaptation to climate change. Gene flow and reproductive isolation among populations can be affected by climate change, especially when population connectivity is tied to climatic gradients. Challenges are to identify the role of climate and landscape features in modulating gene flow and driving contact zone dynamics to assess future ESU vulnerability to climate change.
This study addresses the role of environmental factors in the dynamics of contact zones in desert landscapes under climate change scenarios, using lizard populations of Acanthodactylus scutellatus species group and Agama boulengeri as models. We will combine cutting-edge molecular and spatial analyses to derive integrative landscape models of contact zone dynamics according to climate change predictions. Phylogenetic and Population analyses are expected to answer the questions: i) how is genetic diversity spatially structured; ii) can we identify distinct ESUs within wide ranging species; iii) is there gene flow between ESUs or even between species? Landscape analyses are expected to answer the questions: i) are locations of contact zones and of suitable areas of occurrence driven by spatial patterns of variation in climatic or landscape features; ii) are gene flow levels related to landscape resistance? Projection analyses are expected to answer the questions: i) where are consensus predictions of future ESUs ranges and contacts located, ii) where will future corridors for gene flow be located; iii) are ESUs endangered by shifting hybridisation patterns and genome dilution?
Funding agency: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia /Programa COMPETE
Budget: 130 000€
Project Code: PTDC/BIA-BIC/2903/2012
Principal investigator: JC Brito