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The role of adaptation, phenotypic plasticity and epigenetic variation in the persistence of mangroves in novel environments

Grant number: 23/03810-5
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): April 01, 2023
Effective date (End): March 31, 2027
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Genetics - Plant Genetics
Principal Investigator:Gustavo Maruyama Mori
Grantee:Andre Guilherme Madeira
Host Institution: Instituto de Biociências (IB-CLP). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus Experimental do Litoral Paulista. São Vicente , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:22/02804-9 - Evaluating adaptation, epigenetic variation, and dispersal to unveil the response of mangrove in a changing world, AP.PNGP.PI


Anthropogenic environmental changes have imposed new challenges for different species, and these changes have occurred with increasing speed. Organisms can respond to these new conditions in different ways; among them, adaptive changes, over generations, and phenotypic plasticity. Trees are especially vulnerable to these changes, as they have a long life cycle and, as adults, are unable to migrate to less impacted regions. Mangroves, in particular, face changes in sea level and high temperatures in tropical regions, in addition to the higher rate of anthropic impact in coastal regions. An example of rapid evolution to new environmental conditions was observed in Avicennia germinans, which presented a dwarf phenotype in hypersaline areas with anthropic impacts. Molecular, genomic and transcriptomic evidence pointed to adaptation by natural selection as a factor that explains this phenomenon. However, these evidences do not allow quantifying or rejecting phenotypic plasticity. The present project aims to investigate how adaptive, epigenetic and phenotypic variations are related to the persistence of these organisms in new and challenging environments. For this purpose, we will collect leaves from adult trees and seedlings of A. germinans in natural conditions and in regenerating abandoned shrimp farming tanks, as well as physicochemical parameters of the collection sites. We will evaluate the genetic and epigenetic diversity through genome complexity reduction methods, such as RAD-seq and epiGBS, and the transcription patterns, morphometry and reflectance of the stem and leaves of the seedlings through a common garden experiment. These approaches will allow testing ecological and evolutionary hypotheses for the adaptation of these trees in impacted environments. Our results should contribute to understanding the patterns and speed of response of mangroves to anthropic impacts, and, ultimately, guide conservation and management efforts.

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