Where the wild wheats grow

A study of the potential consequences of climate change on the levels of sympatry between common wheat and six wild relatives.

Data resources used via GBIF : 5,863 species occurrences
Jointed goat grass (Aegilops cylindrica)

One of the six wild wheat relatives, jointed goat grass (Aegilops cylindrica) by odnum via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Gene exchange is a common phenomenon between crops and wild relatives when they grow in the same area. This can lead to changes in adaptation of the wild relatives to natural ecosystems. As climate change progresses, sympatry patterns might change, and in this study, researchers examined projected changes for cultivated wheat and six wild relatives (Aegilops spp.). Using GBIF-mediated occurrences and bioclimatic data, the researchers created niche models for each of the species, and find that by 2050, one species (Ae. ventricosa) might lose more than 50 per cent of suitable habitat, potentially becoming endangered. The models also showed, that European levels of sympatry will increase by 49 per cent. In some countries, the increase will be higher (e.g. five-fold in Russia), and in others it will even decrease (e.g. UK). Concluding, the study stresses a need for increased monitoring to protect the important genetic resources of wild Aegilops populations.

Citations

Ostrowski M-F, Prosperi J-M and David J (2016) Potential Implications of Climate Change on Aegilops Species Distribution: Sympatry of These Crop Wild Relatives with the Major European Crop Triticum aestivum and Conservation Issues. PLOS ONE. Public Library of Science (PLoS) 11(4): e0153974. Available at doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153974.

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