Applying genomics to conservation: investigating climate adaptation in Eucalyptus microcarpa and implications for restoration

Jordan R1,2, Prober S3, Dillon S4 and Hoffmann A1

  1. Bio21 Institute, School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, 30 Flemington Rd, Parkville Vic 3010, Australia.
  2. CSIRO Land & Water, 15 College Rd, Sandy Bay Tas 7005, Australia.
  3. CSIRO Land & Water, 147 Underwood Ave, Floreat WA 6014, Australia.
  4. CSIRO Agriculture, Clunies Ross Street, Black Mountain ACT 2601, Australia.

Under continued environmental change, the simple presence of plant species within the landscape does not necessarily equate to their long-term survival. This is especially true in highly fragmented regions where reductions in population size and connectivity may decrease the potential for future adaptation. To ensure evolutionary resilience under changing conditions, conservation and restoration relies on capturing genetic diversity and thus adaptive potential. Genomics offers a powerful new approach for investigating genetic diversity and adaptation across a species’ range. Using the test case of Eucalyptus microcarpa (Grey Box), we present an example of how genomic approaches can be applied to conservation, in particular restoration of tree species under climate change. Employing DArTseq, a reduced-representation genomics approach, we firstly compared genomic diversity between natural and revegetated sites to assess how well current revegetation strategies capture genomic diversity and thus adaptive potential. Secondly, we investigated adaptation at the genomic-level, aiming to identify genomic regions important for climate adaptation as well as environmental factors potentially driving adaptive diversity in this species. Through this case-study, we demonstrate how genomics can provide deeper insight for restoration under climate change; moving beyond general genetic diversity towards knowledge of genomic signatures of climate adaptation and thus potential adaptive diversity. We show the power of genomics to provide in-depth knowledge that may assist in improving seed sourcing strategies and evolutionary-resilience of future revegetation efforts.