Sedimentary ancient DNA reveals past ecosystem and biodiversity changes on the Tibetan Plateau: Overview and prospects

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Alpine ecosystems on the Tibetan Plateau are being threatened by ongoing climate warming and intensified human activities. Ecological time-series obtained from sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) are essential for understanding past ecosystem and biodiversity dynamics on the Tibetan Plateau and their responses to climate change at a high taxonomic resolution. Hitherto only few but promising studies have been published on this topic. The potential and limitations of using sedaDNA on the Tibetan Plateau are not fully understood. Here, we (i) provide updated knowledge of and a brief introduction to the suitable archives, region-specific taphonomy, state-of-the-art methodologies, and research questions of sedaDNA on the Tibetan Plateau; (ii) review published and ongoing sedaDNA studies from the Tibetan Plateau; and (iii) give some recommendations for future sedaDNA study designs. Based on the current knowledge of taphonomy, we infer that deep glacial lakes with freshwater and high clay sediment input, such as those from the southern and southeastern Tibetan Plateau, may have a high potential for sedaDNA studies. Metabarcoding (for microorganisms and plants), metagenomics (for ecosystems), and hybridization capture (for prehistoric humans) are three primary sedaDNA approaches which have been successfully applied on the Tibetan Plateau, but their power is still limited by several technical issues, such as PCR bias and incompleteness of taxonomic reference databases. Setting up high-quality and open-access regional taxonomic reference databases for the Tibetan Plateau should be given priority in the future. To conclude, the archival, taphonomic, and methodological conditions of the Tibetan Plateau are favorable for performing sedaDNA studies. More research should be encouraged to address questions about long-term ecological dynamics at ecosystem scale and to bring the paleoecology of the Tibetan Plateau into a new era.

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DOI 10.1016/j.quascirev.2022.107703

Cite as
Jia, W. , Anslan, S. , Chen, F. , Cao, X. , Dong, H. , Dulias, K. , Gu, Z. , Heinecke, L. , Jiang, H. , Kruse, S. , Kang, W. , Li, K. , Liu, S. , Liu, X. , Liu, Y. , Ni, J. , Schwalb, A. , Stoof-Leichsenring, K. R. , Shen, W. , Tian, F. , Wang, J. , Wang, Y. , Wang, Y. , Xu, H. , Yang, X. , Zhang, D. and Herzschuh, U. (2022): Sedimentary ancient DNA reveals past ecosystem and biodiversity changes on the Tibetan Plateau: Overview and prospects , Quaternary Science Reviews, 293 , p. 107703 . doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2022.107703

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