"The way evolution works at range limits has been brought into sharper focus by the debate over how species will respond via migration to climate warming," says Dr. Eckert. "It's clear that these marginal populations are adapted in ways that more central populations aren't."
According to Cornell University biologist Monica Geber, in an editorial focused on this new research, the Queen's team has "flipped the question of dispersal limitation on its head to ask whether range-edge populations have diverged, through adaptive evolution, from central populations to increase their colonizing ability."
There has been considerable debate as to whether these northern peripheral populations are worth conserving, Dr. Eckert notes. If they possess adaptations that will enhance their ability to expand their range during climate change, then the answer is yes, he says. His team has recently shown that in Vaccinium stamineum (deerberry) a threatened plant related to the blueberry the capacity for seed dispersal appears to increase sharply towards the range limit in Canada.
In addition, some threatened Canadian populations produce high-quality seeds that exhibit rapid germination and particularly high seedling growth.
"These observations are consistent with our work on coastal dune plants, suggesting that our results may have general relevance and significance for species conservation in changing global environments" says Dr. Eckert.
|Contact: Nancy Dorrance|