Research Article

Geographic shifts in climatically suitable areas and loss of genetic variability in Dipteryx alata (“Baru” Tree; Fabaceae)

Abstract

Many species are expected to suffer strong shifts in their geographic ranges due to climate changes in the next 50 years, with severe consequences for biodiversity patterns and population structure. We used here an ensemble forecast approach for obtaining species’ range in which multiple species distribution models and climatic models were combined to model loss of genetic variability in Baru, Dipteryx alata (Fabaceae), an economically important Neotropical tree native to the Cerrado of Brazil. We estimated a series of genetic parameters (number of alleles per locus, expected heterozygosity under Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and mutation-drift equilibrium) for this species based on eight microsatellite loci. We then recalculated these parameters assuming that local populations in areas of low future environmental suitability will go extinct. All genetic parameters remained approximately constant up to a 50% threshold of climatic suitability in the future; after this critical threshold there is an abrupt reduction in all parameters, although the magnitude of shift is only about 10% of current values, on average. Thus, despite the shifts in geographic range and climatically suitable areas towards southeastern Brazil, our analyses do not predict a strong loss of genetic diversity in D. alata because of the broad tolerance of this species, which ensures large future ranges, contrasting with other Cerrado species that have been analyzed in a similar manner.

Many species are expected to suffer strong shifts in their geographic ranges due to climate changes in the next 50 years, with severe consequences for biodiversity patterns and population structure. We used here an ensemble forecast approach for obtaining species’ range in which multiple species distribution models and climatic models were combined to model loss of genetic variability in Baru, Dipteryx alata (Fabaceae), an economically important Neotropical tree native to the Cerrado of Brazil. We estimated a series of genetic parameters (number of alleles per locus, expected heterozygosity under Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and mutation-drift equilibrium) for this species based on eight microsatellite loci. We then recalculated these parameters assuming that local populations in areas of low future environmental suitability will go extinct. All genetic parameters remained approximately constant up to a 50% threshold of climatic suitability in the future; after this critical threshold there is an abrupt reduction in all parameters, although the magnitude of shift is only about 10% of current values, on average. Thus, despite the shifts in geographic range and climatically suitable areas towards southeastern Brazil, our analyses do not predict a strong loss of genetic diversity in D. alata because of the broad tolerance of this species, which ensures large future ranges, contrasting with other Cerrado species that have been analyzed in a similar manner.