Loss of genetic diversity within a species resulting from climate change may be even more severe than biodiversity loss at the species level, according to a paper published online this week in Nature Climate Change. The work suggests that intraspecific patterns of genetic diversity should be considered when estimating the effects of climate change on biodiversity.
Steffen Pauls, Carsten Nowak and colleagues assessed the variability of mitochondrial DNA and modelled the distribution of nine mountain-dwelling aquatic insect species in Europe. They compared a ‘business as usual’ scenario for 2080 with one in which there would be reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Their results suggest that future contractions in the distribution of these species will be accompanied by severe losses of genetic evolutionary lineages and genetic diversity. The projected losses at the genetic level greatly exceed those at the scale of traditionally described species.