Mountain forests are strongly affected by temperature and are expected to shift upslope with the current climate change, but little is known about the impact of such range shifts and altered selection pressures on the genetic diversity of tree populations.
The project PaleoGenes, funded by SwissForestLab, will undertake large-scale ancient DNA analyses of subfossil tree remains to reveal for the first time the evolutionary responses of mountain tree populations to past climate change.
The project focuses on the transition from the Younger Dryas to the Holocene (11’700 years ago), when temperatures markedly increased by 2 to 4°C within only a few decades, making it a close analogue to current and future climate warming.
For the genetic analyses we will use tree remains such as needles and seeds that have been preserved in natural archives along an altitudinal gradient in the Southern Swiss Alps.
The results will help develop management strategies to maintain the adaptive potential and genetic diversity of mountain tree population under future climate change.