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Growing evidence makes a strong case that epigenetic mechanisms contribute to complex traits, with implications across many fields of biology from dissecting developmental processes to understanding aspects of human health and disease. In ecology, recent studies have merged ecological experimental design with epigenetic analyses to elucidate the contribution of epigenetics to plant phenotypes, stress response, adaptation to habitat, or species range distributions. While there has been some progress in revealing the role of epigenetics in ecological processes, many studies with non-model species have so far been limited to describing broad patterns based on anonymous markers of DNA methylation. In contrast, studies with model species have benefited from powerful genomic resources, which allow for a more mechanistic understanding but have limited ecological realism. To understand the true significance of epigenetics for plant ecology and evolution, we must combine both approaches transferring knowledge and methods from model-species research to genomes of evolutionarily divergent species, and examining responses to complex natural environments at a more mechanistic level. This requires transforming genomics tools specifically for studying non-model species, which is challenging given the large and often polyploid genomes of plants. Collaboration between molecular epigeneticists, ecologists and bioinformaticians promises to enhance our understanding of the mutual links between genome function and ecological processes.

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