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Arctic biodiversity: increasing richness accompanies shrinking refugia for a cold-associated tundra fauna
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As ancestral biodiversity responded dynamically to late-Quaternary climate changes, so are extant organisms responding to the warming trajectory of the Anthropocene. Ecological predictive modeling, statistical hypothesis tests, and genetic signatures of demographic change can provide a powerful integrated toolset for investigating these biodiversity responses to climate change, and relative resiliency across different communities. Within the biotic province of Beringia, we analyzed specimen localities and DNA sequences from 28 mammal species associated with boreal forest and Arctic tundra biomes to assess both historical distributional and evolutionary responses and then forecasted future changes based on statistical assessments of past and present trajectories, and quantified distributional and demographic changes in relation to major management regions within the study area. We addressed three sets of hypotheses associated with aspects of methodological, biological, and socio-political importance by asking (1) what is the consistency among implications of predicted changes based on the results of both ecological and evolutionary analyses; (2) what are the ecological and evolutionary implications of climate change considering either total regional diversity or distinct communities associated with major biomes; and (3) are there differences in management implications across regions? Our results indicate increasing Arctic richness through time that highlights a potential state shift across the Arctic landscape. However, within distinct ecological communities, we found a predicted decline in the range and effective population size of tundra species into several discrete refugial areas. Consistency in results based on a combination of both ecological and evolutionary approaches demonstrates increased statistical confidence by applying cross-discipline comparative analyses to conservation of biodiversity, particularly considering variable management regimes that seek to balance sustainable ecosystems with other anthropogenic values. Refugial areas for cold-adapted taxa appear to be persistent across both warm and cold climate phases and although fragmented, constitute vital regions for persistence of Arctic mammals.
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