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Effect of altitudinal thermal gradient on the adaptive convergence of communities and local adaptation of Pitcairnia flammea Lindl

Grant number: 20/14805-4
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2022
Effective date (End): April 30, 2024
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Botany
Principal researcher:Clarisse Palma da Silva
Grantee:Cleber Juliano Neves Chaves
Home Institution: Instituto de Biologia (IB). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


The geographical distribution of species is related to physiological tolerances along environmental gradients. Temperature, in particular, is the abiotic variable that most affects the performance of organisms along altitudinal gradients. Therefore, organisms located at higher and lower altitudes may present higher tolerance to cold and heat, respectively. Such stratification may also result in a limitation of dispersion along the altitude gradient and lead to divergence between populations and, eventually, speciation. Due to this, climatic oscillations responsible for expansions or contractions in the distribution of species according to their physiological tolerances, can lead populations to isolation in refuges. In this case, physically and ecologically heterogeneous regions, such as tropical mountains, can promote rapid divergence between populations and promote ecological speciation. In this project, we will study the role of thermal variation in the adaptive convergence of plant communities and local adaptation of populations of Pitcairnia flammea, a bromeliad with great morphological variation, distributed in a wide altitudinal gradient in the Atlantic Forest. For this, we will use a multidisciplinary approach, which integrates thermotolerance ecophysiological data of P. flammea and other species that coexist in communities distributed along a gradient of >2000 meters of altitude. We will also analyze the differential expression of P. flammea populations distributed along the same gradient. This study will help us understand the effect of altitude on adaptive convergence, divergent selection among populations, and ecological speciation in megadiverse tropical mountainous regions, such as the Atlantic Forest, and will provide a basis for predicting how species restricted to these environments can respond to climate change. (AU)

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