Global warming has forced alpine chipmunks in Yosemite to higher ground, prompting a startling decline in the species’ genetic diversity, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
The study, appeared Sunday, Feb. 19, in the advance online publication of the journal Nature Climate Change, is one of the first to show a hit to the genetic diversity of a species because of a recent climate-induced change in the animals’ geographic range. What’s more, the genetic erosion occurred in the relatively short span of 90 years, highlighting the rapid threat changing climate can pose to a species.
With low genetic diversity a species can be more vulnerable to the effects of inbreeding, disease and other problems that threaten species survival, the researchers said.
“Climate change is implicated as the cause of geographic shifts observed among birds, small mammals and plants, but this new work shows that, particularly for mountain species like the alpine chipmunk, such shifts can result in increasingly fragmented and genetically impoverished populations,” said study lead author Emily Rubidge, who conducted the research while a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “Under continued warming, the alpine chipmunk could be on the trajectory towards becoming threatened or even extinct.”
Read the Full Report by Sarah Yang, Media Relations for Berkeley News Center.