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Trends Plant Sci. 2009 Jan;14(1):51-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Nov 29.

Environmental change and the option value of genetic diversity.

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KITE (York Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Dynamics), Environment Department, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, UK.


Rapid anthropogenic environmental change is altering selection pressures on natural plant populations. However, it is difficult to predict easily the novel selection pressures to which populations will be exposed. There is heavy reliance on plant genetic diversity for future crop security in agriculture and industry, but the implications of genetic diversity for natural populations receives less attention. Here, we examine the links between the genetic diversity of natural populations and aspects of plant performance and fitness. We argue that accumulating evidence demonstrates the future benefit or 'option value' of genetic diversity within natural populations when subject to anthropogenic environmental changes. Consequently, the loss of that diversity will hinder their ability to adapt to changing environments and is, therefore, of serious concern.

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