Phylogeography, population genetics and distribution modelling reveal vulnerability of Scirpus longii (Cyperaceae) and the Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora to climate change. Academic Article uri icon


  • A proactive approach to conservation must be predictive, anticipating how habitats will change and which species are likely to decline or prosper. We use composite species distribution modelling to identify suitable habitats for 18 members of the North American Atlantic Coastal Plain Flora (ACPF) since the Last Glacial Maximum and project these into the future. We then use Scirpus longii (Cyperaceae), a globally imperiled ACPF sedge with many of the characteristics of extinction vulnerability, as a case study. We integrate phylogeographical and population genetic analyses and species distribution modelling to develop a broad view of its current condition and prognosis for conservation. We use genotyping-by-sequencing to characterize the genomes of 142 S.longii individuals from 20 populations distributed throughout its range (New Jersey to Nova Scotia). We measure the distribution of genetic diversity in the species and reconstruct its phylogeographical history using the snapp and rase models. Extant populations of S.longii originated from a single refugium south of the Laurentide ice sheet around 25ka. The genetic diversity of S.longii is exceedingly low, populations exhibit little genetic structure and the species is slightly inbred. Projected climate scenarios indicate that nearly half of extant populations of S.longii will be exposed to unsuitable climate by 2070. Similar changes in suitable habitat will occur for many other northern ACPF species-centres of diversity will shift northward and Nova Scotia may become the last refuges for those species not extinguished.

published proceedings

  • Mol Ecol

altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Spalink, D., MacKay, R., & Sytsma, K. J.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Spalink, Daniel||MacKay, Ron||Sytsma, Kenneth J

publication date

  • April 2019