Landscape genetics

Landscape genetics is a relatively new discipline focusing on direct assessment of the interaction between environmental factors and genetics of species populations. Predicting how communities will respond to climate change requires a detailed understanding of their genetic composition at the species level. Species resilience to environmental stress is dependent on a number of factors including their ability to disperse and adapt by the process of natural selection.

In landscape genetics, the interaction between environmental factors and species genetic compositions are integrated and directly assessed.

Species can counteract to climate change in some ways. They can modify some part of their characteristics, e.g. reproducing in different time of a year (plastic change), move to other area where environmental conditions are more suitable for them (migration), or even can be genetically adapted (evolution). In many cases, organisms counteract to environmental stress in combination of these three acts in very complicated ways when it is possible. When species live in small islands or mountain region, it is more serious problem because there is only limited area for dispersion, and environmental conditions may differ dramatically in over a short distance.

Climate change has caused and will cause a huge effect on biodiversity. The Earth has experienced several glacial periods in the past, and changes in climate pattern are natural process. However human developments and activities have a large impact on the environment and the changes in climates has been accelerated in a rapid rate beyond the natural process.

Climate change is a major factor threatening the Australian alpine region and its unique biodiversity. Current climate change scenarios suggest that the Australian Alps are likely to experience increases in temperature, decreasing and irregular patterns of precipitation, and more frequent fire. In Alpine region, plant and animal communities are often quite variable across altitudinal gradients, driven by changes in temperature, precipitation, and other biotic and abiotic factors. However the Australian Alps have a quite unique structure where there is no clear highest peak but a series of plateaus broken by valleys. Alpine communities are therefore likely to be particularly at risk of changing climate as there is limited potential for upward migration.