Genotypic and phenotypic changes in wild barley (Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum) during a period of climate change in Jordan.

Climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances can lead to the loss of genetic variation and thereby affect evolutionary potential and survival of plant populations in the wild. We examined these predictions in the primary wild relative of barley, Hordeum vulgare L. subsp. spontaneum (K. Koch) Thell., within its center of diversity, in Jordan. Changes in genotypic and phenotypic diversity were assessed using seed samples collected in 1981 and 2012 from the same 18 sites across Jordan. The overall population structure was conserved, but we observed an increase of within population genetic diversity and a reduction in population differentiation. Phenotypic variation differed among years and sites but the magnitude and direction of change variated among sites. While the sampled region became significantly hotter and drier during this period, simple correlation models did not support association between measures of climate change and the observed genetic and phenotypic changes. Agricultural activities that promote disturbance and demographic fluctuations may affect crop wild relatives that grow in agricultural landscapes, in unexpected ways. The observed increase in genetic diversity within populations might be explained by increased migration or by an advantage of increased genetic variation in the face of variable environmental conditions. This study provides a new perspective on the range of possible responses of crop wild relatives to environmental pressures.

Thormann, I. Reeves, P.; Thumm, S.; Reilley, A.; Engels, J.M.M.; Biradar, C.M.; Lohwasser, U.; Borner, A.; Pillen, K.; Richards, C.M.
Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. Online first article (07 Sep 2016)