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Frontiers of Biogeography

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The effects of past, present and future climate change on range-wide genetic diversity in northern North Atlantic marine species


It is now accepted that changes in the Earth’s climate are having a profound effect on the distributions of a wide variety of species. One aspect of these changes that has only recently received any attention, however, is their potential effect on levels of within-species genetic diversity. Theoretical, empirical and modelling studies suggest that the impact of trailing-edge population extirpation on range-wide intraspecific diversity will be most pronounced in species that harbour the majority of their genetic variation at low latitudes as a result of changes during the Quaternary glaciations. In the present review, I describe the historical factors that have determined current patterns of genetic variation across the ranges of Northern North Atlantic species, highlight the fact that the majority of these species do indeed harbour a disproportionate level of genetic diversity in rear-edge populations, and outline how combined species distribution modelling and genetic analyses can provide insights into the potential effects of climate change on their overall genetic diversity.

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