Project: Adapting Plant Genetic Diversity to climate change along a continental latitudinal gradient

Acronym PlantCline (Reference Number: BiodivClim-177)
Duration 01/12/2020 - 31/12/2023
Project Topic 1. Climate change is not only affecting ecosystems directly via altered abiotic conditions, but also via changes in biodiversity at several levels. Nevertheless, few studies have considered the simultaneous and interacting effects of multiple climate change drivers at different scales of biodiversity, and how changes in some biodiversity components in turn drive alterations in other organisms and their diversity. 2. Previous biodiversity research has mainly focused on species diversity, trying to explain the causes of and limits on species distribution. However, much of the diversity that drives the functioning of ecosystems resides within species. Intraspecific genetic diversity is what evolution acts upon, enabling those organisms that are most adapted to persist and thrive. A changing climate will thus alter the process of natural selection, causing ripple effects across entire ecosystems. 3. Plants form the basal resource of nearly all terrestrial food webs. Intraspecific diversity enables plant populations to adapt to changes in the environment. Climate change is anticipated to impose higher temperatures, more severe droughts, and changing invertebrate communities in plant populations. Understanding plant genetic diversity and how it responds to these different, interacting selection pressures is key to ensure the persistence of both ecosystem integrity and food security in the future. 4. Our proposed research will use a unique set of 230 sequenced woodland strawberry genotypes originating from across Europe to study phenotypic traits, including metabolites, and the genes underlying them in 2 common gardens (Finland, Spain). To test how these traits affect natural selection, we will use 5 common gardens along a European latitudinal gradient (from central Spain to northern Finland), each containing a selection of 16 replicated genotypes. In these 5 gardens, precipitation is experimentally reduced by 50% for half of the plants. By using latitude as a space-for-time experiment, we can mimic future conditions in northern locations by investigating selection patterns on genetic diversity further to the south. In addition, our independent drought treatment enables us to test which genetic plant variants are more able to adapt or respond plastically to severe drought events. Our holistic approach thus enables linking genes to phenotypes, fitness, and interactions with other organisms in the community. 5. Besides providing fundamental knowledge on how climate change affects plant intraspecific diversity and their associated ecological communities, this project will also support policy and societal needs in a number of ways. For example, the obtained knowledge will guide pest risk assessments , management of insect ecosystem services (natural biocontrol), guide in situ conservation of crop wild relatives, and identify genetic variation that is needed to generate crop genotypes that are able to sustain climate change in different parts of Europe.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
PlantCline aims to generate and share knowledge on how climate change affects the evolution of plant traits and trait diversity, as well as interactions between the plant and pest organisms, via changes in abiotic as well as biotic conditions such as novel insect communities due to climate-induced range shifts. Overall, the project aims to obtain a mechanistic understanding of the interrelationships among selection of genes, expression of phenotypic traits, and real-life fitness. Woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca) will be used as model species.
Network BiodivClim
Call 2019-2020 Joint Call

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Coordinator Sweden
2 University of Helsinki Partner Finland
3 University of Malaga Partner Spain
4 Ghent University Partner Belgium