Strategies for optimising adaptive capacity and genetic diversity of populations in the Dutch National Ecological Network

Species respond to climate change by local adaptation to changing circumstances and / or by shifting their area.

We want to better understand these interactions in order to determine whether mitigation measures are needed to sustainably maintain species. This project studies the genetic processes that occur in fragmented populations under various scenarios of climate change. The effects of an area shift on genetic diversity and degree of adaptation will be analysed for the current design of the EHS, and we will advise on improvements.

The simulations have produced results that are useful in a much broader sense than just the structure of the EHS. The distribution of genetic variation in a shifting metapopulation shows that most of the genetic variation stays behind, even if there are no geographical barriers. This has consequences for the in-situ conservation of genetic resources of trees and shrubs, and the genetic resources of our crops, as the climate changes. These genetic resources are essential for developing new varieties for sustainable agriculture, that needs to feed  a growing population.