Ecology Letters (2012) 15: 649–657
Paleoclimatic reconstructions coupled with species distribution models and identification of extant spatial genetic structure have the potential to provide insights into the demographic events that shape the distribution of intra-specific genetic variation across time. Using the globeflower Trollius europaeus as a case-study, we combined (1) Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms, (2) suites of 1000-years stepwise hindcasted species distributions and (3) a model of diffusion through time over the last 24,000 years, to trace the spatial dynamics that most likely fits the species’ current genetic structure. We show that the globeflower comprises four gene pools in Europe which, from the dry period preceding the Last Glacial Maximum, dispersed while tracking the conditions fitting its climatic niche. Among these four gene pools, two are predicted to experience drastic range retraction in the near future. Our interdisciplinary approach, applicable to virtually any taxon, is an advance in inferring how climate change impacts species’ genetic structures.