Are humans changing animal genetic diversity worldwide? | 3/22/2018 | Staff
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Human population density and land use is causing changes in animal genetic diversity, according to researchers at McGill University.

The findings reported in the journal Ecology Letters, show that environmental changes caused by humans are leading to changes in genetic variation in thousands of species of birds, fish, insects, and mammals. The evidence for human impacts was most clear for insects and fish species.

Species - Variation - Response - Change - Species

Because species depend on genetic variation to adapt and evolve in response to environmental change, many species we rely on may disappear as their susceptibility to habitat loss, pollution and climate change grows. While we can observe the effect of humans on the planet's biodiversity through the lens of animal extinctions, it was unclear until now just how much humans were eroding the underlying ability of biodiversity to sustain itself.

A team of biologists at McGill drew upon the largest genetic data repositories available, accumulating over 175,000 sequences from more than 27,000 populations of 17,082 animal species. Using the year each genetic sequence was collected and its spatial coordinates, the authors were able to assess whether the effect of humans has resulted in temporal trends (increase, decrease, no effect) between 1980 and 2016. A previous investigation of this relationship had not focused on tracking diversity over time, nor the way it changes in space.

Factors - Study - Effects

"We were sure to include these factors in our study because they have important effects...
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