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Using Genetic Tools To Facilitate Climate Change Adaptation

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Introduction

Climate change is a global issue threatening the human and ecosystems and the animals that live within the environment. Climate change is already affecting regions of the world and the need for adaptation tools is of major importance as the global climate is occurring at a much faster rate than we have ever anticipated. Climate change will affect ecosystems and the organisms which will result in range shift, alteration of the food web and probably extinction. Climate change adaptation is important, and it refers to adjustments of ecological, social and economic systems which will minimize the impact of the above problems. Climate change affects different regions, communities and sectors in different ways, hence the adaptation strategies must encompass different measures. Though adaptation techniques such as adjusting to planting dates, fertilization date, migration etc. , predictions of climate impacts are expected to increase therefore, we need new techniques and technologies like genetic tools to facilitate climate change adaptation.

Genetic Tools

We need new ideas and technologies to improve climate change adaptation. Genetic tools such as DNA sequencing, epigenetic and transgenics can help us to understand changes happening in organism and modify genes to respond to the changes. Firstly, analyzing DNA sequencing can help us to understand relatedness organism and relationships which will help us to cross or relocated. Secondly, epigenetics involves gene expressions that result in phenotypic changes in organism triggered by transcription factors such as environmental changes without affecting DNA sequence of the organism. They encompass modification histones at a given locus which trigger transcription factors. According Stenvinkel and Ekstrom (2008), epigenetic can involve chromatin modification through acetylation, methylation, chromatin remodeling or RNA base-silencing.

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On the other hand, transgenic involves transferring of gene from one organism to the next to improve their fitness. This can be done through performing crosses/ hybridization or using technique such as CRISPR to modify and transfer genes. For instance, CRISPR can be used to silence a gene. CRISPR also can be used to cut out and substitute desired genes into an organism. Hence these techniques can be used to improve fitness of organism to adapt to climate change.

Environmental Impacts

Climate change is already affecting plants and animals by disrupting their habitats, and environments that they live in. While some organisms are adapting to these changes through migration and plasticity, the rate at which these changes are happening needs human intervention. This can be done by studying genetic, using DNA sequencing, epigenetic and transgenics to facilitate adaptation. For instance, recent studies have indicated that epigenetic variation in populations are independent from genetic variations and can be passed onto the next generations, and they can be used to improve our understanding of the natural phenotypic variation and the responses to changes in environment. According to El-Awady, (2015), researchers in Saudi Arabia and Australia have identified genes that allow reef fish to quickly adjust to increasing water temperatures caused by climate change. The research improves understanding genes that are involved in transgenerational acclimation and thus knowing how these genes function we can also turn on these gene in other organism to help them adapt to climatic changes. Genetic studies will also help to understand relationship between and among population of different animals as well as plants which will in turn lead to designing better conservation strategies. Transgenic involves gene twerking genes. There are three options that would help to facilitate adaptation:

  1. Threatened species can be crossed or hybridized with individuals of the same species from better adapted populations hence passing on beneficial alleles to off-springs.
  2. Transfer genomic information from well-adapted populations to threatened populations.
  3. Incorporate genes form well-adapted population into a threatened populationIt will all require studying gene to gene interaction among individuals and population before they can be done. It will also require studying the history of organism and their relationship with each species and the environment they thrive in.

Social Impacts

Climate change disrupts social, cultural and natural resources of vulnerable and poor communities, countries and regions. This would affect people living in areas prone to sea level rise, drought or even severe weather conditions. Socially genetically modified crops and animals can provide food, improved yield and buffer against sea level rise, drought, and other weather events. Already genetically modified food crops have been developed to counteract severe weather event and droughts. Genetically modified crops would require sequencing DNA and identifying favorable traits that are resistant to drought or other conditions and then isolating the traits and transferring them to new crops to improve yield. According to World Bank breeding crops and genetically modifying crops can help societies to adapt to extreme weather conditions such as droughts, floods, and rains. Several genetically modified crops have been commercialized and about 114 million hectares of insect-tolerant and herbicide transgenic crops were planted since 2012. Using genetically modified crops will enable crops to grow and adapt to stress-prone areas. Farmed animal transgenics are aimed at improving animal health, growth and survival of the animal. According to Lievens et al. , (2015) this is done through the following techniques; DNA microinjection, retroviral vectors, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and somatic cell nuclear transfer. These techniques involve inserting genetic materials or deleting genetic information using knockouts. However, the success of this techniques is the rate to be between 1-3%. Hence, the modification of plants and animals and using them in farming would help societies and vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change by raising drought-resistant crops and disease resistant animals.

Economic Impacts

Climate change affects poor and vulnerable countries, especially those countries whose economies depend on the export of agricultural and natural commodities for income. Hence, genetic tools can contribute to the country’s economic development by improving crops yields and reducing the cost involved in the management of farms and conservation activities. For instance, drought resistance crops would reduce the cost involved in irrigation. Modified crops have helped to reduce environmental footprint by decreasing emission by making more efficient use of plant products and using less land to achieve high crop yields. Therefore, using the above genetic information can also be a positive outcome for improving economies. That is if genetically modified crops and animals can be used to generate income for individual and countries. For instance, genetically, modified crops and animals can produce high yields which can be exported to generate income. According to Carpenter (2010), in 2009, around 14 million farmers have been using genetically modified crops and yield great benefits from these crops. Furthermore, the genetically modified organisms that are well suited for environmental conditions can also be used to safeguard against sea level rise, floods, and other weather extremes.

My Opinion

Genetic tools are having positive impacts in terms of helping people adapt climate change, especially when used in plants to sustain farmers and their stock. However, based on the success rate (1-3%) of genetic techniques used on animals, I would be against it. There is so much uncertainty in sequencing animal DNA. Firstly, we do not know the negative impacts it will have on the food web and the natural environment. For instance, altering genes may disrupt flowering season of plants. This would also cause confusion on insects and other pollinators that depend on these plants as food source. Adaptation strategies should not just benefit humans and on some key species but should involve all other organisms occupying the earth.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Genetic tools can play a crucial role in climate change adaptation. With the current rate of climate change, there needs to be some interventions to protect the biodiversity and ecosystems of the world. Genetically modified crops are already been used in countries that are severely affected by changes in climatic conditions and have been improving economies of these countries, which we can see the significance of genetic tools. However, we should also consider the impact of these technologies on other organisms and not just a few species.

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