Extreme events are increasing globally with devastating ecological consequences, but the impacts on underlying genetic diversity and structure are often cryptic and poorly understood, hindering assessment of adaptive capacity and ecosystem vulnerability to future change. Using very rare “before” data we empirically demonstrate that an extreme marine heatwave caused a significant poleward shift in genetic clusters of kelp forests whereby alleles characteristic of cool water were replaced by those that predominated in warm water across 200 km of coastline. This “genetic tropicalisation” was facilitated by significant mortality of kelp and other co-occurring seaweeds within the footprint of the heatwave that opened space for rapid local proliferation of surviving kelp genotypes or dispersal and recruitment of spores from warmer waters. Genetic diversity declined and inbreeding increased in the newly tropicalised site, but these metrics were relative stable elsewhere within the footprint of the heatwave. Thus, extreme events such as marine heatwaves not only lead to significant mortality and population loss but can also drive significant genetic change in natural populations.
Bibliografisk noteFunding Information:
The authors thank the many students and colleagues who assisted with fieldwork. This research was funded by Australian Research Council Grants DP0663550 to MAC, FT110100174 to TW and DP160100114, DP200100201 to TW and MAC.
© 2020, The Author(s).