Local adaptation, genetic load and extinction in metapopulations

Olusanya OO. 2024. Local adaptation, genetic load and extinction in metapopulations. Institute of Science and Technology Austria.

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Thesis | PhD | Published | English
Supervisor
Barton, Nicholas HISTA ; Polechova, Jitka; Sachdeva, Himani
Series Title
ISTA Thesis
Abstract
In nature, different species find their niche in a range of environments, each with its unique characteristics. While some thrive in uniform (homogeneous) landscapes where environmental conditions stay relatively consistent across space, others traverse the complexities of spatially heterogeneous terrains. Comprehending how species are distributed and how they interact within these landscapes holds the key to gaining insights into their evolutionary dynamics while also informing conservation and management strategies. For species inhabiting heterogeneous landscapes, when the rate of dispersal is low compared to spatial fluctuations in selection pressure, localized adaptations may emerge. Such adaptation in response to varying selection strengths plays an important role in the persistence of populations in our rapidly changing world. Hence, species in nature are continuously in a struggle to adapt to local environmental conditions, to ensure their continued survival. Natural populations can often adapt in time scales short enough for evolutionary changes to influence ecological dynamics and vice versa, thereby creating a feedback between evolution and demography. The analysis of this feedback and the relative contributions of gene flow, demography, drift, and natural selection to genetic variation and differentiation has remained a recurring theme in evolutionary biology. Nevertheless, the effective role of these forces in maintaining variation and shaping patterns of diversity is not fully understood. Even in homogeneous environments devoid of local adaptations, such understanding remains elusive. Understanding this feedback is crucial, for example in determining the conditions under which extinction risk can be mitigated in peripheral populations subject to deleterious mutation accumulation at the edges of species’ ranges as well as in highly fragmented populations. In this thesis we explore both uniform and spatially heterogeneous metapopulations, investigating and providing theoretical insights into the dynamics of local adaptation in the latter and examining the dynamics of load and extinction as well as the impact of joint ecological and evolutionary (eco-evolutionary) dynamics in the former. The thesis is divided into 5 chapters. Chapter 1 provides a general introduction into the subject matter, clarifying concepts and ideas used throughout the thesis. In chapter 2, we explore how fast a species distributed across a heterogeneous landscape adapts to changing conditions marked by alterations in carrying capacity, selection pressure, and migration rate. In chapter 3, we investigate how migration selection and drift influences adaptation and the maintenance of variation in a metapopulation with three habitats, an extension of previous models of adaptation in two habitats. We further develop analytical approximations for the critical threshold required for polymorphism to persist. The focus of chapter 4 of the thesis is on understanding the interplay between ecology and evolution as coupled processes. We investigate how eco-evolutionary feedback between migration, selection, drift, and demography influences eco-evolutionary outcomes in marginal populations subject to deleterious mutation accumulation. Using simulations as well as theoretical approximations of the coupled dynamics of population size and allele frequency, we analyze how gene flow from a large mainland source influences genetic load and population size on an island (i.e., in a marginal population) under genetically realistic assumptions. Analyses of this sort are important because small isolated populations, are repeatedly affected by complex interactions between ecological and evolutionary processes, which can lead to their death. Understanding these interactions can therefore provide an insight into the conditions under which extinction risk can be mitigated in peripheral populations thus, contributing to conservation and restoration efforts. Chapter 5 extends the analysis in chapter 4 to consider the dynamics of load (due to deleterious mutation accumulation) and extinction risk in a metapopulation. We explore the role of gene flow, selection, and dominance on load and extinction risk and further pinpoint critical thresholds required for metapopulation persistence. Overall this research contributes to our understanding of ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that shape species’ persistence in fragmented landscapes, a crucial foundation for successful conservation efforts and biodiversity management.
Publishing Year
Date Published
2024-01-19
Page
183
IST-REx-ID

Cite this

Olusanya OO. Local adaptation, genetic load and extinction in metapopulations. 2024. doi:10.15479/at:ista:14711
Olusanya, O. O. (2024). Local adaptation, genetic load and extinction in metapopulations. Institute of Science and Technology Austria. https://doi.org/10.15479/at:ista:14711
Olusanya, Oluwafunmilola O. “Local Adaptation, Genetic Load and Extinction in Metapopulations.” Institute of Science and Technology Austria, 2024. https://doi.org/10.15479/at:ista:14711.
O. O. Olusanya, “Local adaptation, genetic load and extinction in metapopulations,” Institute of Science and Technology Austria, 2024.
Olusanya OO. 2024. Local adaptation, genetic load and extinction in metapopulations. Institute of Science and Technology Austria.
Olusanya, Oluwafunmilola O. Local Adaptation, Genetic Load and Extinction in Metapopulations. Institute of Science and Technology Austria, 2024, doi:10.15479/at:ista:14711.
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