The climatic scenario worsens. We have seen it this year, with extreme phenomena that have set records across the globe. The fact that a plant or an animal knows how to adapt better or worse depends on your genetic picture, of how it is configured as standard. The same thing happens to us humans. However, a study now published in Science shows that even this is not guaranteed.
The researchers who have released this latest research tell how climate change and the destruction of different habitats in the world may be causing the loss of more than a tenth of the genetic diversity global land. That is, of what allows species to adapt to variable and extreme scenarios such as those posed by global warming.
Moisés Expósito-Alonso, author of the study and researcher at the Carnegie Scientific Institute and Stanford University, explains that “when you remove or alter fundamental strips of a species’ habitat, you restrict the genetic wealth available to help those plants and animals adapt to changing conditions.”
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Their findings show that it may already be too late to meet the United Nations’ proposed goal of protecting 90% of the genetic diversity of all species by 2030. For this reason, the researchers insist that we have to act fast to avoid further losses and move towards a scenario of mass extinctions.
Some are already in production. As scientists tell, several hundred species of animals and plants have become extinct in the industrial age and human activity has impacted or reduced half of the Earth’s ecosystemswhich has affected millions of species.
Partial loss of geographic range decreases population size and may prevent geographically populations of the same species from can interact with each other. This has serious implications for the genetic richness of an animal or plant and its ability to meet the coming challenges of climate change.
The researchers indicate that until recently, this important component has been overlooked when setting goals to preserve biodiversity. The point is that without a diverse group of natural genetic mutations on which to rely it is known that species will have a limited ability to survive disturbances in their geographic range.
From what is understood of mutations in popular culture is that they transmit a kind of superpowers that defy the laws of physics. However, what these transformations actually represent are small random natural variations in the genetic code that could positively or negatively affect the ability of an individual organism to survive and reproduce. In fact, you can pass on positive traits to future generations.
As Expósito-Alonso assures, “the greater the set of mutations to which a species can resort, the greater the chances of stumbling upon that lucky combination that will help a species to prosper despite the pressures created by habitat loss, as well as changes in temperature and precipitation patterns.”
Losses that can be foreseen
The study now published in the journal Science shows a framework based on population genetics for assess the richness of available mutations for a species within a given area.
It is through their analysis that they have shown that terrestrial plant and animal life on Earth You could already be at a much higher risk by loss of genetic diversity than previously thought. Something that they consider irreversible, because the speed at which it recovers is much slower than the rate at which it is lost.
However, despite these not very encouraging results, this same tool can help us focus efforts on species conservation at particular risk. According to Expósito-Alonso, “the mathematical tool we tested on 20 species could be expanded to make approximate conservation genetic projections for additional species, even if we don’t know their genomes.”
The expert adds that these findings “could be used to assess and track new global sustainability goals”, but points out that there is still some uncertainty about it. “We need to do a better job of monitoring species populations and developing more genetic tools,” he adds.
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