Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Adaptations to climate change

The majority of earth’s animal species are ectothermic and are therefore greatly affected by the temperature in the surrounding environment. Increasing climate change has increased the interest in studies on temperature adaptation in general and, specifically, whether the capacity of these adaptations will ensure biodiversity and populations in the future. Climate change in the Arctic is expected to surpass change in other areas by far, but even though it is getting warmer, this may paradoxically also lead to the risk of increased exposure to cold for animals that hibernate under or on the soil due to lack of snow cover and increased frequency of freeze-thaw cycles.

We study adaptation to cold, heat and drought in populations of selected soil animals that are widespread from temperate areas to the high Arctic. By collecting many populations along this climatic gradient, we study which evolutionary constraints exist for adaptation to climatic stress and test current hypotheses as to whether climate change towards warmer temperatures adversely affects adaptation to lower temperatures. We aim to shed light on the evolutionary adaptation process to changed climatic conditions for a number of organisms in the Arctic.