Evidence of current impact of climate change on life: a walk from genes to the biosphere



We review the evidence of how organisms and populations are currently responding to climate change through phenotypic plasticity, genotypic evolution, changes in distribution and, in some cases, local extinction. Organisms alter their gene expression and metabolism to increase the concentrations of several antistress compounds and to change their physiology, phenology, growth and reproduction in response to climate change. Rapid adaptation and microevolution occur at the population level. Together with these phenotypic and genotypic adaptations, the movement of organisms and the turnover of populations can lead to migration toward habitats with better conditions unless hindered by barriers. Both migration and local extinction of populations have occurred. However, many unknowns for all these processes remain. The roles of phenotypic plasticity and genotypic evolution and their possible trade-offs and links with population structure warrant further research. The application of omic techniques to ecological studies will greatly favor this research. It remains poorly understood how climate change will result in asymmetrical responses of species and how it will interact with other increasing global impacts, such as N eutrophication, changes in environmental N : P ratios and species invasion, among many others. The biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks on climate of all these changes in vegetation are also poorly understood. We here review the evidence of responses to climate change and discuss the perspectives for increasing our knowledge of the interactions between climate change and life.