No linkage between the diversity of species and genetic diversity in the Alps

Botany | Biodiversity | Climate Change

Tanja Barendziak; | 24/10/12 | Bremen, Germany


Biodiversity describes the diversity of habitats, species and genes. Up to now it was widely accpeted in theory that these different levels coincide in their diversity. An area with a high degree of habitat diversity hence was assumed to be abundant in species and show great genetic diversity. An international research group has now proven that the diversity of species not necessarily goes along with wide genetic variety. In the whole alpine region 893 distribution patterns of alpine plant species were examined. For 27 of these species a genetic screening was carried out. The result was that biotopes with a large variety of species do not correspond to those with high genetic diversity.

Scientists refer to the ice age and local environmental conditions as a cause. The diversity of species among alpine plants is effected by environmental conditions, whereas genetic diversity is influenced by processes that led to the resettlement of ice-free areas after the last glacial period. These findings could also be verified by a parallel study in the Carpathians.

These results have a significant impact on the preservation of biodiversity in the alpine region. Previously nature reserves have been declared in areas that are home to rare species and characterized by a high number of habitats and species. In future nature reserves shall likewise include territories with large genetic variety. A better biotope networking of new and designated areas has to be achieved in order to ensure the exchange of individuals and genes. Only in this way genetic diversity can be preserved in the long term.

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