Under the title ‘Molecular adaptation in range expansions: predicting fitness of future plant communities’, members of the Mercurialis Genomics Network has just submitted a pre-proposal for the current call for projects of the ERA-CAPS (an ERA-NET from the seventh framework EU program for Coordinating Action in Plant Sciences). ERA-CAPS main objective is to promote sustainable collaboration in plant sciences through coordinating and funding excellent transnational research, including food security, adaptation to climate change, and biotic and abiotic stress response. The specific objectives of the project are to:
1) Evaluate the consequences of range expansions on the accumulation of deleterious vs. beneficial mutations, and thus on the process of local adaptation to new biotic and abiotic stress (e.g. herbivory, drought), in a gene network context.
2) Estimate the potential for evolution in colonization-front populations, their level of genomic and transcriptomic differentiation from ancestral populations, and the origin of adaptive molecular variants (new mutations vs. standing genetic variation), and relate this to phenotypic differentiation and phenotypic innovations.
3) Assess the merit of assisted migration (increase of genetic variation vs. outbreeding depression) to allow new adaptive responses in populations facing extremes in their climatic tolerance and evaluate, through environmental modelling, the fate of standing populations confronted with increasing pressure due to climate change.
These goals will be achieved by a combination of experimental evolution, genomic and quantitative genetic approaches using Mercurialis annua as model organism.