Combining biodiversity and climate parameters – University of Copenhagen

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Centre for Ice and Climate > Research > Biology and ice > Reconstruction of past ecosystems and climate using fossil DNA > Combining biodiversity...

Combining biodiversity and climate parameters

Good and representative databases, which make it possible to compare DNA sequences are crucial so that researchers can draw a picture of past biodiversity, based on preserved fossil DNA.

Because the fragments that the researchers can compare with the databases are short and thus contain limited information, it is impossible in most cases to determine the sequence down to species level. Yet it is possible to obtain useful information, basedon which genus or family level (plant groups) can be determined when the overall type of ecosystems are described.

Short DNA fragments amplified from the basal ice of plants can be aligned and
compared to databases with present day plant DNA sequences. That way it is
possible to identify the different plant groups preserved in the ice and describe
what kind of ecosystem they represent.

Plant groups are particularly informative when temperature and precipitation conditions are to be described. By detecting good indicator species like those that only thrive within specific temperature intervals, researchers gain insight into the prevailing winter and summer temperatures in the ancient ecosystem.

The same applies in relation to precipitation levels and humidity. The description of ecosystems and indicator groups of plants in that way contribute important climate parameters, which can be linked to climate models. 

- Reconstruction of past ecosystems and climate using fossil DNA
- Preserved fossil DNA in the ice
- Fossil DNA's potential and limitations
- Paleo-ecosystems and climate