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sector_ico_Environment_trans Environment

Epigenetic adaptations of plants to climate change

  • Project Leaders: Greg Henry, Loren Rieseberg
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $125000
  • Program/Competition: Sector Innovation Program
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2018
  • Status: Closed

The world’s climate is warming at an unprecedented rate. Understanding how, and over what time frame, plants can adapt to warmer temperatures associated with climate change is a fundamental first step towards the development of mitigation strategies ensuring sustainability of forest, cultivated crops, and native species.

Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, which affect gene function without changes in DNA sequence, present a faster alternative, or addition to, genetic adaptation: it could mitigate the effects of climate change, while provide time for plants to evolve genomic adaptations.

The project team will use artificially warmed plots at International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) sites across the Arctic to determine the mechanisms and speed of plant adaptation to climate change. Experimental warming has been maintained in tundra communities for up to 27 years by ITEX participants, which provides a unique opportunity to study short-term adaptive responses to climate warming.

The team will focus on Snow Whitlow-grass, which germinates easily, grows quickly and has a small genome, and sequence plants from the warmed and control plots across the ITEX sites to identify differences in DNA methylation that are consistently associated with artificial warming.

The results of this project will be useful to policymakers in sectors of the BC economy where adaptation to climate change is desired, and may have longer term implications for farming and natural resources sectors in BC.