Evolution, Ecologie et Paléontologie
( Evo-Eco-Paléo )

Unité Mixte de Recherche UMR 8198

Ecology of interactions in a changing world

Group leader : Jean-François Arnaud (Prof.)



  • Laurent Amsellem (Assistant prof.)
  • Jean-François Arnaud (Prof.)
  • Anne Duputié (Assistant prof.)
  • Hélène Frérot (Assistant prof.)
  • Nina Hautekèete (Assistant prof.)
  • Maxime Pauwels (Assistant prof.)
  • Yves Piquot (Assistant prof.)
  • Cédric Vanappelghem (Associated lecturer)

Technical staff:

  • Nathalie Faure (Greenhouses)
  • Cédric Glorieux (Greenhouses)
  • Cécile Godé (Molecular biology)
  • Chloé Ponitzki (Greenhouses)
  • Eric Schmitt (Greenhouses)


  • Alessandro Fisogni
  • Marie-Joe Karam

PhD students:

  • Leslie Faucher
  • Bénédicte Felter
  • Mathilde Latron
  • Julien Nowak
  • Dima Souleman


Main objectives of the team “Environmental changes and adaptation”


Our research questions address:

  1. the mechanisms underlying adaptive variation in animal and plant species facing climatic changes,
  2. the connectivity and levels of gene flow among natural populations in anthropized and/or fragmented habitats,  
  3. the colonization processes associated with the successful settlement of species in urbanized environments, and
  4. the evolution of species facing heavy-metal polluted environments.


Our main objectives are to trace back the effects of environmental changes on neutral and adaptive genetic diversity, on demographic properties of populations and on the composition of species communities, in order to predict extinction probabilities, the evolution of life-history traits, or shifts in species geographical distribution under global warming. Therefore, we determine the adaptive potential – either through phenotypic plasticity and/or microevolutionary processes – through studying the dynamics of species communities and key life-history traits related with mating system, dispersal capability or toxicity tolerance.


Briefly, the main research topics of the team focus on:


(1) Population genetic structure in human-dominated environments


Land use changes are by far the most important contemporary cause of habitat loss and landscape fragmentation. For instance, the intensification of agricultural practices in the second half of the 20th century has led to the fragmentation of semi-natural habitats in agricultural landscapes. The well-known effect of habitat loss and fragmentation is to decrease the levels of gene flow among populations and to reduce effective population sizes, two key components of standing genetic variation that determine adaptive potential.

However, new anthropic habitats may also benefit to the establishment of pioneering species in highly disturbed areas and drive rapid microevolutionary changes. In this context, our research aims to (i) assess the landscape components driving the level and extent of gene flow among remnant populations and (ii) understand and predict which new anthropic habitats can be colonized and can shelter viable populations exchanging substantial levels of gene flow (e.g. hydrochorous wetland plants, pollutant-tolerant plants, amphibians).


(2) Evolutionary ecology of local adaptation to metal-polluted habitats


Pollution is a major driver of global change. Due to resulting environmental toxicity, pollution threatens the survival of populations (including human ones). In an evolutionary point of view, toxicity thus represents a selective pressure that, provided that the required genetic diversity exists, may result in the evolution of local adaptation. In our work, we test if local adaptation does occur, analyse the mechanisms that may be involved in its evolution, as well as the consequences of local adaptation on the genetic differentiation among populations using Noccaea caerulescens et Arabidopsis halleri (Brassicaceae) as major model species. Using experimental crosses among exposed and unexposed accessions, NGS genotyping of obtained progenies and multiple ecological traits for phenotyping, we analyse the genetic architecture and genetic bases of local adaptation (QTL mapping). Comparing methylomes of natural accessions cultivated in control conditions, we test the possibility of epigenetic mechanisms in local adaptation. Through experimental evolution approaches, we investigate the effective role of selected selection pressures in the evolution of adaptive traits.


(3) Life-history trait variation among central and marginal populations.


Global environmental changes are driving shifts in species spatial distributions. To accurately predict these changes, one needs to describe and understand how life-history traits vary across a given species' range. These predictions can help eradicate or contain invasive species, but can also be useful for conservation management of endangered species. Two major types of life-history traits are expected to evolve at a leading range margin: (i) reproductive traits, which impact population demo-genetic features, (ii) dispersal traits, which affect patterns of gene flow and colonization processes. We study the population genetic structure and life-history traits impacting population demography and dispersal capabilities of several animal and plant species of conservation interest (e.g. dune pansy Viola tricolor, rock samphire Crithmum maritimum) or known to be invasive (e.g. South African ragwort Senecio inaequidens, Asian shore crab Hemigrapsus sanguineus).


(4) Global change and biodiversity


The global shift of human-induced changes is inducing unprecedented changes in plant and animal communities. Local, regional or global extinctions of species, migration of cosmopolitan species and landscape alteration lead to biotic homogenization at a global scale. Interaction networks are thought to be dramatically altered but the observation of these changes is still in its infancy.

We study the consequences of global changes on communities and on species interactions (1) by the use of long-term floristic and faunistic databases (over one century) in the Nord Pas de Calais region and Belgium, (2) by a monthly field survey on three regions (Larzac, Normandy, Hauts de France) along a latitudinal gradient corresponding to a biodiversity gradient (3) by studying networks along an urbanization gradient. Our aim is to assess and enhance our understanding of how the structure of interaction networks, especially plant-pollinator networks, changes with species depletion. Current monitoring focuses on Apoids and Syrphids, two major groups of pollinators. In addition we also address the question of the relationship between man and nature, through the study of our interactions with the European beaver. This species, locally extinct and then reintroduced in some regions of France, is an engineer species modifying local landscapes, potentially inducing changes in perception and representation. Our aim is to assess the impact of this change on the effectiveness of reintroductions.


Representative publications:

Faucher, L., Hénocq, L., Vanappelghem, C., Rondel, S., Quevillart, R., Gallina, S., Godé, C., Jaquiéry, J. & Arnaud, J.-F. (2017) When new human-modified habitats favor the expansion of an amphibian pioneer species: evolutionary history of the natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) in a coal basin. Molecular Ecology, 26, in press (doi: 10.1111/mec.14229).

Gonneau, C., Nausicaa, N., Godé, C., Frérot, H., Sirguey, C., Sterckeman, T., Pauwels, M. (2017) Demographic history of the trace metal hyperaccumulator Noccaea caerulescens (J. Presl and C. Presl) F. K. Mey. in Western Europe. Molecular Ecology, 26, 904-922.

Favre-Bac, L., Mony, C., Ernoult, A., Burel, F. & Arnaud, J.-F. (2016) Ditch network sustains functional connectivity and influences patterns of gene flow in an intensive agricultural landscape. Heredity, 116, 200-212.

Faucher, L., Godé, C. & Arnaud, J.-F. (2016) Development of nuclear microsatellite loci and mitochondrial single nucleotide polymorphisms for the natterjack toad, Bufo (Epidalea) calamita (Bufonidae), using next generation sequencing and Competitive Allele Specific PCR (KASPar). Journal of Heredity, 107, 660–665.

Goberville, E., Hautekèete, N.-C., Kirby, R.R., Piquot, Y., Luczak, C. & Beaugrand, G. (2016) Climate change and the ash dieback crisis. Scientific Reports, 6, 35303.

Meyer, C.L., Pauwels, M., Briset, L., Godé, C., Salis, P., Bourceaux, A., Souleman, D., Frérot, H. & Verbruggen, N. (2016) Potential preadaptation to anthropogenic pollution: Evidence from a common quantitative trait locus for zinc and cadmium tolerance in metallicolous and nonmetallicolous accessions of Arabidopsis halleri. New Phytologist, 212, 934-943.

Duputié, A., Rutschmann, A., Ronce, O. & Chuine, I. (2015) Phenological plasticity will not help all species adapt to climate change. Global Change Biology, 21, 3062-3073.

Hautekèete, N.-C., Frachon, L., Luczak, C., Toussaint, B., van Landuyt, W., van Rossum, F. & Piquot, Y. (2015) Habitat type shapes long-term plant biodiversity budgets in two densely populated regions in north-western Europe. Diversity and Distributions, 21, 631–642.


Examples of study species:

Castor fiber    Bufo calamita   Hemigrapsus sanguineus      Oenanthe aquatica     Pelodytes punctatus

    Crithmum maritimum      Viola tricolor ssp. curtisii     Noccaea caerulescens        Lumbricus terrestris