Summary from the authors: Standing genomic variation within coding and regulatory regions contributes to the adaptive capacity to climate in a foundation tree species

Photos clockwise: a fully mature marri tree (Corymbia calophylla; by R. Mazanec), the characteristic large gumnut (by R. Davis), and the flowers (by R. Davis).

Marri, an economically and ecologically important tree in the southwest Australian floristic region, is under pressure from the effects of climate change, notably heatwaves and droughts. In this study we focus on understanding how this species is adapted to climate, providing information to develop evidence-based forest management policy, which aims to improve the tree’s persistence in a future climate. We used genomic techniques to explore genetic variation along climate gradients that are indicative of adaptation. We found adaptive genomic variants within and immediately up stream of functional genes that play key roles under temperature and water stress. Genomic variants within genes can lead to changes to the function of the protein themselves, providing opportunities for selection, while genomic variants upstream of genes may alter regulation, producing a varying amount of proteins. Both of these are important ways in which organisms are able to adapt to different climatic conditions. The amount of adaptive genetic variation within and around genes suggests the species can persist under the pressures and pulses of climate change with the help of evidence-based, proactive forest management.

Ahrens CW, Byrne M, Rymer PD. Standing genomic variation within coding and regulatory regions contributes to the adaptive capacity to climate in a foundation tree species. Mol Ecol. 2019;28:2502–2516. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.15092

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