Genomic reconstruction of 100 000-year grassland history in a forested country: Population dynamics of specialist forbs

Yuichi Yamaura*, Ayu Narita, Yoshinobu Kusumoto, Atsushi J. Nagano, Ayumi Tezuka, Toru Okamoto, Hikaru Takahara, Futoshi Nakamura, Yuji Isagi, David Lindenmayer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Grassland ecosystems worldwide have been extensively converted to other land uses and are globally imperiled. Because many grasslands have been maintained by human activities, understanding their origin and history is fundamentally important to better contemporary management. However, existing methods to reconstruct past vegetation can produce contrasting views on grassland history. Here, we inferred demographic histories of 40 populations of four grassland forb species throughout Japan using high-resolution genome sequences and model-flexible demographic simulation based on the site frequency spectrum. Although two species showed a slight decline in population size between 100 000 - 10 000 years ago, our results suggest that population sizes of studied species have been maintained within the range of 0.5 - 2.0 times the most recent estimates for at least 100 000 years across Japan. Our results suggest that greater than 90% declines in Japanese grasslands and subsequent losses of grassland species in the last 100 years are geologically and biologically important and will have substantial consequences for Japanese biota and culture. People have had critical roles in maintaining disturbance-dependent grassland ecosystems and biota in this warm and wet forested country. In these contexts, disturbances associated with forest harvesting and traditional extensive farming have the potential to maintain grassland ecosystems and can provide important opportunities to reconcile resource production and conservation of grassland biodiversity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number577
    JournalBiology Letters
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


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