SYMP 10-1
Common garden arrays and community genetics approaches enable adaption to global change

Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 8:00 AM
307, Baltimore Convention Center
Thomas G. Whitham, Department of Biological Sciences and Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ
Background/Question/Methods - As foundation species are by definition, “community and ecosystem drivers,” their genetic structure and extended phenotypes on the community and ecosystem are especially important to understand and quantify.  Our findings show that individual genotypes of a foundation species support different communities of soil microbes, mycorrhizae, arthropods, vertebrates, understory plants, lichens, and pathogens, and that these differences can be quantified as heritable plant traits.  Because different plant populations and individual genotypes vary predictably in the communities they support, and in their responses to climate change and invasive species, genetics-based approaches can provide important solutions to mitigate global change impacts on wild lands and minimize biodiversity loss.  

Results/Conclusions – Because plants that are locally adapted today are likely to become locally maladapted tomorrow, it is important to utilize the naturally occurring genetic variation within species to match genetically appropriate populations with tomorrow’s environments.  We are using an array of replicated common gardens along elevation and latitude gradients to quantify gene x environment interactions and to identify plant populations, specific genotypes, and key genetic-based interactions that can be deployed at restoration sites or used in assisted migration that will meet conservation goals in future environments.  I discuss some of the concerns in using this approach and develop specific findings using the newly funded Southwest Experimental Garden Array ( that is focused on individual foundation species (grasses to trees) as well as complex communities of interacting species.  I describe how land managers in federal, state and private agencies are participating and utilizing our findings to mitigate the effects of climate change and invasive species.  We seek new national and international partners to further expand this experimental array and approach, and to identify broader generalities and applications that might be achieved.