Adaptation to climate change in wild maize

Ongoing climate change is one of the most important threats to biodiversity and crop sustainability. The impact of climate change is often evaluated on the basis of expected changes in species’ geographical distributions, yet genomic diversity, local adaptation, and migration are seldom integrated into projections of species responses to climate change.

In our most recent work (Aguirre-Liguori et al., in press; Proceedings of the Royal Society B) we integrated population genomic data, landscape genetics and species distribution modeling to investigate the impacts of ongoing climate change on populations of two wild relatives of maize: the teosintes Zeamays ssp. mexicana and Z.mays ssp. parviglumis. We predict that climate change will have profound impacts on the patterns of local adaptation and migration probabilities across populations. This in spite that most populations exhibit high levels of genetic diversity and are predicted to lie within future climatically suitable areas. We also found evidence that climate change may give way to future maladaptation of maize landraces within currently cultivated areas. The predicted alterations to habitat distribution, migration potential, and patterns of local adaptation in wild and cultivated maize, raise a red flag for the future of populations.

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