Impact Summary (EN)
Global climate change (GCC) will lead to severe environmental changes and many species will lose their habitats. According to the recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES 2019), 5% of all species are at risk of extinction from 2°C global warming alone. To escape demographic decline or extinction, species have three different strategies to respond to changing environmental conditions: 1. range shift to track their ecological niche, 2. phenotypic plasticity to tolerate environmental change, 3. genetic evolution to adapt to new local conditions. The ability to disperse depends on species specific characteristics, e.g. birds can fly, whereas trees are sessile and thus have to cope with their local conditions. The ability of a species to genetically adapt to changing conditions depends on species-specific characteristics, such as e.g. genetic variability and population size. If we want to counteract species extinction by conservation strategies we first need to be able to predict how different species will respond to GCC. A key element for accurate predictions is the potential for dispersal and/or evolutionary response of as many species as possible, and particularly of so-called keystone species which are of major importance for their respective ecosystem.
Here we argue that it is possible to use genomic data to understand a species’ evolutionary potential and then use this to improve prediction models that can reliably predict how species will respond to changing climate conditions across their distribution area. A lot has already been learned about the genomic footprints of adaptation to climate in different organisms and we highlight some important research strategies. Similarly, there have been great advances in prediction modelling. So-called eco-evolutionary models are most promising for successfully integrating ecological and evolutionary information. However, these models depend on large amounts of ecological and genomics (i.e. evolutionary) data. Scientists will therefore have to establish large consortia and engage with local communities to collect the required data before the consequences of global climate change are irreversible.