The genetic consequences of landscape alterations are a central concern in plant conservation biology. Both the FP6 thematic priority Sustainable Development, Global Change and Ecosystems, and the EU 6th Community Environment Action Programme explicitly en courage action to investigate the interaction between genetic resources and human activities, including the development of modelling and forecasting tools.
In this spirit, this project aims at developing a predictive model of the evolution of neutral and adaptive genes in plant populations subject to demographic perturbation. We will combine population genetics theory with realistic plant demographic dynamics, trying to overcome the spatial and dispersal restrictions of previous studies.
To achieve so, we w ill formulate an individual-based model that accounts for non-uniform distribution of individuals in space and time, different dispersal distributions, and stochastic demography. The model will be parameterised using information from available field studies.
A coalescent algorithm, conditioned on the demographic history of the simulated populations, will be implemented to estimate the effective population parameters, evaluate their evolution under demographic perturbation, and contrast the results with those obtained from simple analytical approximations. Finally, the effects of accumulating mildly deleterious mutations in small plant populations under restricted dispersal and fluctuating density will be investigated.
Based on the results, we will formulate practical recommendations for conservation planning. From a training point of view, the project will add complementary mathematical and evolutionary dimensions to the applicant's current empirical background in molecular ecology.
He will have the chance to develop analytical skills through collaboration with a world-leading group in theoretical evolutionary biology, building a better-rounded multidisciplinary approach to his career.
Fields of science
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