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Evaluating adaptation, epigenetic variation, and dispersal to unveil the response of mangrove in a changing world

Abstract

The rapid human-driven environmental changes pose novel biotic and abiotic conditions to organisms. They may either respond through migration that allows them to change their distribution or through persistence via adaptation by natural selection or via phenotypic plasticity. Failing to respond properly may lead to a species' local or global extinction. While trees species are threatened by such fast-paced changes because of their long lifecycle and that they are sessile as adults, mangroves are particularly vulnerable due to their dynamic and environmentally challenging coastal habitat. Mangrove forests contribute disproportionately to carbon sequestration and storage. Thus, mangroves can be considered both 'victim' and potential solution to mitigate the effects of climate change, therefore, these trees should be considered as high priority organisms for study of organismal response to rapid climate changes. The goal of this research proposal is to reveal how mangrove trees may respond to current climate changes by migration and persistence. The study will be carried out in two autonomous, but complementary, subprojects whose aims are a) to evaluate the role of large-scale surface ocean currents on the dispersal of mangrove trees at global scale, and b) to investigate how adaptive, epigenic and phenotypic variation impact the persistence of these organisms to novel and harsh environments. This approach will allow the training and networking of internationally competitive human resources and the establishment of an interdisciplinary molecular ecology research group at UNESP, São Vicente. Additionally, this project will generate novel results that could identify key threats to mangroves and allow the construction of more realistic predictive models. This work will contribute to the selection or creation of effective management, restoration, and conservation strategies. (AU)

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