During the last ice age, glaciers covered vast portions of North America. But some regions, including areas of the southern Appalachians and the Gulf Coast, had more temperate climates in which plants and animals survived and thrived. From those regions, called glacial refugia, those populations spread northward as the glaciers receded.

Jeremiah Busch.

New research by Clemson University scientist Matthew Koski and colleagues, including WSU professor of biological sciences Jeremiah Busch, supports strengthening conservation efforts in glacial refugia because of their high genetic diversity.

“These regions are the source of genetic diversity for the rest of the species ranges to the north of us,” said Koski. “Conservation of these habitats in the Southeast is vital and has implications for other areas of the country.”

If forced migrations of species — the planting populations beyond their current range edges — is necessary, being able to sample from regions with high genetic diversity is important.

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