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Life in a cold climate: the adaptation of cereals to new environments and the establishment of agriculture in Europe

Objective

"This project explores the concept of agricultural spread as analogous to enforced climate change and asks how cereals adapted to new environments when agriculture was introduced into Europe. Archaeologists have long recognized that the ecological pressures placed on crops would have had an impact on the spread and subsequent development of agriculture, but previously there has been no means of directly assessing the scale and nature of this impact. Recent work that I have directed has shown how such a study could be carried out, and the purpose of this project is to exploit these breakthroughs with the goal of assessing the influence of environmental adaptation on the spread of agriculture, its adoption as the primary subsistence strategy, and the subsequent establishment of farming in different parts of Europe. This will correct the current imbalance between our understanding of the human and environmental dimensions to the domestication of Europe. I will use methods from population genomics to identify loci within the barley and wheat genomes that have undergone selection since the beginning of cereal cultivation in Europe. I will then use ecological modelling to identify those loci whose patterns of selection are associated with ecogeographical variables and hence represent adaptations to local environmental conditions. I will assign dates to the periods when adaptations occurred by sequencing ancient DNA from archaeobotanical assemblages and by computer methods that enable the temporal order of adaptations to be deduced. I will then synthesise the information on environmental adaptations with dating evidence for the spread of agriculture in Europe, which reveals pauses that might be linked to environmental adaptation, with demographic data that indicate regions where Neolithic populations declined, possibly due to inadequate crop productivity, and with an archaeobotanical database showing changes in the prevalence of individual cereals in different regions."

Field of science

  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/agriculture
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/genetics and heredity/genome
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/agriculture/plant breeding/crops
  • /agricultural sciences/animal and dairy science
  • /social sciences/economics and business/economics/production economics/productivity

Call for proposal

ERC-2013-ADG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-AG - ERC Advanced Grant

Host institution

THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER
Address
Oxford Road
M13 9PL Manchester
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 2 072 420,93
Principal investigator
Terence Austen Brown (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Claire Faichnie (Ms.)

Beneficiaries (5)

THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 2 072 420,93
Address
Oxford Road
M13 9PL Manchester
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Terence Austen Brown (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Claire Faichnie (Ms.)
THE UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 203 127,91
Address
Firth Court Western Bank
S10 2TN Sheffield
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Joanne Watson (Ms.)
NIAB
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 124 200
Address
Huntingdon Road
CB3 0LE Cambridge
Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Susan Arnold (Mrs.)
EIDGENOSSICHEN FORSCHUNGSANSTALT FUR WALD SCHNEE UND LANDSCHAFT

Participation ended

Switzerland
Address
Zuercherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf
Activity type
Research Organisations
Administrative Contact
Esther Moor (Mrs.)
UNIVERSIDAD DEL PAIS VASCO/ EUSKAL HERRIKO UNIBERTSITATEA
Spain
EU contribution
€ 93 214,72
Address
Barrio Sarriena S N
48940 Leioa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Charo Sanchez (Ms.)