Anthropogenic climate change will dramatically impact the world?s plants and animals through higher projected extinction rates and sizable range shifts, especially in high-latitude boreal regions. Responding to these dangers requires a deeper understanding of how species react to fast-moving, large-scale climate shifts. Similar impacts from rapid climate change during the Last Glacial Maximum (approx. 18000 years ago) can serve as a model for predicting the impacts of present-day anthropogenic climate change. This research will use the responses of parsley ferns (Cryptogramma species) growing in eastern Asia and western North America to rapid climate change during the Last Glacial Maximum as a model for predicting how today?s flora will survive anthropogenic climate change. These parsley ferns today span the area known as Beringia, which stretches from northeastern Asia across the Bering Sea into central Alaska and was subject to rapid climate change during the Last Glacial Maximum. By using large amounts of DNA sequence data, researchers will quantify patterns of genetic diversity across the landscape and examine the relative importance of surviving in a small number of refugial regions that can serve as sources for recolonization or migration versus surviving on numerous isolated mountaintops during the Last Glacial Maximum for these parsley ferns. Populations that are in particular danger of extinction from present day climate change will be identified for special conservation attention.

The public and broader scientific community will benefit from this research in many ways. This project will help train the next generation of scientists as a graduate student and undergraduate student will become efficient in state of the art DNA sequencing methods and in executing an extended research project, including overseas field work. High school students, including Alaska Natives, will benefit from involvement in the collection and analysis of data. The international scope of the project will also develop research infrastructure beyond America?s borders through collaboration with Russian and Chinese researchers. The public will be able to access all of the data generated, including high-resolution images of preserved specimens, in online databases. This project will also reach out to the public through the production of an online identification key to the parsley ferns and through the publication of an outreach article on the impacts of climate change on the northern flora.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
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Simon Malcomber
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University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus
United States
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