Ecological epigenetics is a developing field exploring how environmental changes or distinct contexts influence epigenetic changes to an organisms’ genome. These epigenetic mechanisms such as histone modifications or DNA methylation are important as they can affect ecologically important phenotypic traits even absent genetic variation.
Despite this, they are more frequently studied in a laboratory using model organisms than in an ecological context. This study will look at epigenetic variation in semi-natural environments using an extremely long-lived species, Tilia cordata (small leaved lime). Given its longevity and extensive clonal growth, we will explore how epigenetic patterns change with age.
DNA methylation is associated with aging in other plant taxa and this represents a potentially useful tool in understanding demographic processes like turnover.