Heritable genetic diversity and gene flow – main ingredients in the recipe for managing micro-evolution to foster climate change adaptation

Publication Type  Conference Presentation
Authors  Christina M. Sloop
Affiliations  Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation
Year  2009
Key Words  climate change; adaptation; genetic diversity

In the face of global climate change, ecologists forecast unprecedented species range shifts and disassociations of ecological communities. While climate change prediction modeling is applied to tackle uncertainty as to species’ and ecosystem response within various climate change scenarios, we also need to incorporate the evolutionary potential for rapid species adaptation to avoid local extinction and resist range shifts. Contrary to popular belief, evolutionary change arises not only over millennia, but can occur rapidly, in decades, within ecological time scales. This micro-evolutionary potential of species has been demonstrated by investigations into species adaptations to new environments and to rapid human-induced change.

Changing climatic conditions such as drought, timing shifts, and increased moisture will select for appropriate adaptations within species, and are applied e.g. in studies to breed more drought tolerant crops. Such genomic approaches and species translocation studies are essential in showing us the possibilities, limits for, and rates of species adaptations, and will allow us to model these within climate change scenarios.

The raw materials for adaptation at the population level are: heritable genetic variation, trait correlations, gene flow, plasticity, and demography. Considering these factors and the relevant evolutionary processes, restoration biologists will be able to manipulate the genetic structure of source populations to maximize the adaptive potential of restored populations. To increase the short- and long-term success of conservation and restoration efforts in the face of global climate change an understanding of the micro-evolutionary processes affecting species are crucial. Therefore, micro-evolutionary thinking needs to be incorporated into management decisions in conservation and restoration ecology.


Christina Sloop is the Director of Research at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation and also serves as Adjunct Biology Faculty and Staff Special Consultant at Sonoma State University. Using science to address the critical problems facing biodiversity Christina’s research program evaluates and constructs workable solutions to issues of invasive species, habitat loss, degradation & connectivity, endangered species recovery, water quality impairment, and sedimentation within the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed. Christina earned her Ph.D. in Ecology at University of California, Davis, investigating the population genetics and dynamics of spread of a hybrid swarm of cordgrasses (Spartina sp.) in San Francisco Bay. She also holds a Masters degree in Conservation Biology from San Francisco State University. Her 20-year experience spans across multiple disciplines and includes research on the conservation ecology of rare and endangered species, the population genetics and dynamics of invasive species, conservation ecology and population genetics of vernal pool plant species, public-access impacts on bird diversity, restoration efficacy of riparian plantings, invasive species control, endangered species recovery, and conservation planning.

Conference Name  2009 State of the Laguna Conference and Science Symposium
Presentation Type: 
4_Sloop_Wed Session 2.pdf625.95 KB