Genomics in a changing arctic: critical questions await the molecular ecologist

Molecular ecology is poised to tackle a host of interesting questions in the coming years. The Arctic provides a unique and rapidly changing environment with a suite of emerging research needs that can be addressed through genetics and genomics. Here we highlight recent research on boreal and tundra ecosystems and put forth a series of questions related to plant and microbial responses to climate change that can benefit from technologies and analytical approaches contained within the molecular ecologist's toolbox. These questions include understanding (i) the mechanisms of plant acquisition and uptake of N in cold soils, (ii) how these processes are mediated by root traits, (iii) the role played by the plant microbiome in cycling C and nutrients within high-latitude ecosystems and (iv) plant adaptation to extreme Arctic climates. We highlight how contributions can be made in these areas through studies that target model and nonmodel organisms and emphasize that the sequencing of the Populus and Salix genomes provides a valuable resource for scientific discoveries related to the plant microbiome and plant adaptation in the Arctic. Moreover, there exists an exciting role to play in model development, including incorporating genetic and evolutionary knowledge into ecosystem and Earth System Models. In this regard, the molecular ecologist provides a valuable perspective on plant genetics as a driver for community biodiversity, and how ecological and evolutionary forces govern community dynamics in a rapidly changing climate.
Wullschleger S. D., A. L. Breen, C. M. Iversen, M. S. Olson, T. Näsholm, U. Ganeteg, M. D. Wallenstein, and D. J. Weston
Molecular Ecology