Cottonwood field research photo by Helen Bothwell
Cottonwoods are a foundation species of stream-side habitats, influencing understory plants, insects, microbes, birds and mammals. (Photo courtesy Helen Bothwell)

NAU awarded $2.5 million to examine genetic response of ‘foundation’ species to climate impacts

The National Science Foundation has awarded Northern Arizona University a five-year, $2.5 million grant to examine how future climate change and invasive species will affect Fremont cottonwood trees, a “foundation species” of the Southwest’s rapidly vanishing stream-side habitats.

The research team will use the Southwest Experimental Garden Array, a new genetics-based research platform that allows scientists to quantify the ecological and evolutionary responses of species to changing climate conditions. With the resulting data, genetics-based models will be used to explain how the genetic connectivity of foundation species, climate change and exotic species interact to affect hundreds of dependent species.

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