Synthesizing the role of epigenetics in the response and adaptation of species to climate change in freshwater ecosystems

Our freshwater ecosystems are severely threatened by many factors including pollution and climate change. In the current synthesis, we focus on the potential role of epigenetics (molecular modifications of DNA that do not change the DNA sequence). We highlight examples of the roles of DNA methylation and histone modifications, well-known epigenetic mechanisms, in the response to climate change. We conclude by pinpointing the most promising avenues for future research directions to improve our understanding on how freshwater organisms cope with climate change. With this synthesis, we provide a thorough summary of the field and put forward key research questions that need to be addressed.


Scientific abstract

Freshwater ecosystems are amongst the most threatened ecosystems on Earth. Currently climate change is one of the most important drivers of freshwater transformation and its effects include changes in the composition biodiversity and functioning of freshwater ecosystems. Understanding the capacity of freshwater species to tolerate the environmental fluctuations induced by climate change is critical to the development of effective conservation strategies. In the last few years epigenetic mechanisms were increasingly put forward in this context because of their pivotal role in gene‐environment interactions. In addition the evolutionary role of epigenetically inherited phenotypes is a relatively recent but promising field. Here we examine and synthesize the impacts of climate change on freshwater ecosystems exploring the potential role of epigenetic mechanisms in both short‐ and long‐term adaptation of species. Following this wrapping‐up of current evidences we particularly focused on bringing together the most promising future research avenues towards a better understanding of the effects of climate change on freshwater biodiversity specifically highlighting potential molecular targets and the most suitable freshwater species for future epigenetic studies in this context.


Full reference (link):

Jeremias, G. , Barbosa, J. , Marques, S. M., Asselman, J. , Gonçalves, F. J. and Pereira, J. L. (2018), Synthesizing the role of epigenetics in the response and adaptation of species to climate change in freshwater ecosystems. Mol Ecol. Accepted Author Manuscript. . doi:10.1111/mec.14727