Climate Genomics for farm animal adaptation


ClimGen is a project that focuses on the identification and use of ‘omics technology for building livestock resilience to climate change. Bringing together previous and ongoing national, EU and global efforts to understand livestock adaptation to climatic extremes, the project will seek to identify genomic tools and biomarkers that can be used to predict adaptation in livestock populations to thermal and related challenges.

Alongside scientific investigation, ClimGen will also develop and assess the efficacy of modified breeding strategies that use ‘omics information to rapidly equip livestock populations with the resilience that will be required to withstand the predicted negative effects of climate change in the short, medium and long-term. ClimGen will also act as a source of relevant information for Stakeholders, who will both participate in and influence the development of the project.ClimGen’s activities can be divided into three. First we will carry out a data-mining and gap filling exercise for identifying genomic targets of selection in cattle, sheep and goat populations that occur in challenging climates throughout Europe and in northern and central Africa.

Replicated climate contrast data will be analysed from across Europe, including new samples in the Carpathian region, data for cattle and sheep in the extreme north and data for sheep and goats in the extreme south (Morocco). In this way ClimGen will make maximum use of data that have already been generated but not analysed to detect adaptation across climates and will only concentrate on producing data in hotspot regions where it is most needed.

Second, we will carry out three case study experiments to find biomarkers of climate adaptation within the transcriptome and epigenome. These studies will analyse contrasting systems and seek to detect profile changes in

  • sheep and goats in contrasting thermal environments,
  • in pigs under thermal stress with controlled temperature environments and
  • in red-legged partridges under immune and thermal stress. Biomarker responses will be compared among these diverse systems and compared with the selection targets identified in the first activity.

Finally, these data will be used in an assessment of new strategies for breeding climate resilience into livestock populations using state-of-the-art simulations, assuming different approaches such as admixture and genomic selection, which will be compared with more traditional breeding methods in terms of their comparative efficiency over short, medium and longer timescales.