To infer the legacy of human activities on tropical forest diversity with spatial genetics and remote sensing

Project HumTrait:

Maria J. Santos
Maarten Eppinga
Meredith Schuman
Felix Morsdorf
Kentaro Shimizu


Aim: The effects of human presence on species traits and the underlying genetic diversity–which reflects species’ adaptive niche and potential–remain unclear. Borneo is a megadiverse site that exhibits the greatest estimated species richness globally and bears evidence of more than a 40,000-year-long history of human presence (Sample 2018). This legacy of human presence and interaction with natural communities is hypothesized to have left lasting effects on current-day diversity through changes in phenotypes and underlying genotypes. Here we propose to assess whether human modifications could have led to measurable changes in trait space.

Research: This project combines the existing expertise within the URPP GCB on spatial genomics, remote sensing, and social-ecological systems. Social-ecological systems research is combined with fundamental research on genetic diversity through an interface of remote sensing. We aim to better understand the idea of human legacy tempos, i.e., whether human presence and intensity of use in the landscape have lasting effects that are measurable in the phenotypic diversity and genotypic assessments. The global drivers of change we include are: Land use change, climate change, invasive organisms, overexploitation. We will explore as mechanisms of change: scaling – from genes to ecosystems, and interactions of these levels of organization with other forms of life – humans.