PostDoc, Ghent University
Eco-evolutionary dynamics are key processes to learn how species adapt in a changing world
Humans are changing any corner of Earth with unprecedented consequences for global biodiversity. We are losing species at a pace as high as it was 65 million years ago when dinosaurs vanished from the planet. We are amidst the sixth mass extinction and we are the leading cause of it. To anticipate further species loss we need to understand how our actions affect species distributions; be it because of climate change on a large scale or because of land use change on a local scale. Eco-evolutionary dynamics can help to understand global shifts in species distribution in the wake of climate change or how adaptation to novel environmental conditions could alter species' evolution. This pinboard aims to share key papers of the field to offer a concise (and updated) overview into the topic for everyone from starting their own research in this field to support guidance to at the science-policy interface.
Abstract: Recent studies of the joint dynamics of ecological and evolutionary processes show that changes in genotype or phenotype distributions can affect population, community and ecosystem processes. Such eco-evolutionary dynamics are likely to occur in modern humans and may influence population dynamics. Here, we study contributions to population growth from detailed genealogical records of a contemporary human population. We show that evolutionary changes in women's age at first reproduction can affect population growth: 15.9% of variation in individual contribution to population growth over 108 years is explained by mean age at first reproduction and at least one-third of this variation (6.1%) is attributed to the genetic basis of this trait, which showed an evolutionary response to selection during the period studied. Our study suggests that eco-evolutionary processes have modulated the growth of contemporary human populations.
Pub.: 05 Jul '17, Pinned: 25 Sep '17
Abstract: We develop a classification scheme for the evolutionary state of planets based on the non-equilibrium thermodynamics of their coupled systems, including the presence of a biosphere and the possibility of what we call an agency-dominated biosphere (i.e. an energy-intensive technological species). The premise is that Earths entry into the Anthropocene represents what might be from an astrobiological perspective a predictable planetary transition. We explore this problem from the perspective of the solar system and exoplanet studies. Our classification discriminates planets by the forms of free energy generation driven from stellar forcing. We then explore how timescales for global evolutionary processes on Earth might be synchronized with ecological transformations driven by increases in energy harvesting and its consequences (which might have reached a turning point with global urbanization). Finally, we describe quantitatively the classification scheme based on the maintenance of chemical disequilibrium in the past and current Earth systems and on other worlds in the solar system. In this perspective, the beginning of the Anthropocene can be seen as the onset of the hybridization of the planet - a transitional stage from one class of planetary systems interaction to another. For Earth, this stage occurs as the effects of human civilization yield not just new evolutionary pressures, but new selected directions for novel planetary ecosystem functions and their capacity to generate disequilibrium and enhance planetary dissipation.
Pub.: 27 Aug '17, Pinned: 17 Sep '17
Abstract: A comprehensive understanding of how natural and anthropogenic variation in habitat influences populations requires long-term information on how such variation affects survival and dispersal throughout the annual cycle. Gray jays Perisoreus canadensis are widespread boreal resident passerines that use cached food to survive over the winter and to begin breeding during the late winter. Using multistate capture-recapture analysis, we examined apparent survival and dispersal in relation to habitat quality in a gray jay population over 34 years (1977-2010). Prior evidence suggests that natural variation in habitat quality is driven by the proportion of conifers on territories because of their superior ability to preserve cached food. Although neither adults (>1 year) nor juveniles (<1 year) had higher survival rates on high-conifer territories, both age classes were less likely to leave high-conifer territories and, when they did move, were more likely to disperse to high-conifer territories. In contrast, survival rates were lower on territories that were adjacent to a major highway compared to territories that did not border the highway but there was no evidence for directional dispersal towards or away from highway territories. Our results support the notion that natural variation in habitat quality is driven by the proportion of coniferous trees on territories and provide the first evidence that high-mortality highway habitats can act as an equal-preference ecological trap for birds. Reproductive success, as shown in a previous study, but not survival, is sensitive to natural variation in habitat quality, suggesting that gray jays, despite living in harsh winter conditions, likely favor the allocation of limited resources towards self-maintenance over reproduction.
Pub.: 18 May '13, Pinned: 01 Aug '17
Abstract: Whether interspecific hybridization is important as a mechanism that generates biological diversity is a matter of controversy. Whereas some authors focus on the potential of hybridization as a source of genetic variation, functional novelty and new species, others argue against any important role, because reduced fitness would typically render hybrids an evolutionary dead end. By drawing on recent developments in the genetics and ecology of hybridization and on principles of ecological speciation theory, I develop a concept that reconciles these views and adds a new twist to this debate. Because hybridization is common when populations invade new environments and potentially elevates rates of response to selection, it predisposes colonizing populations to rapid adaptive diversification under disruptive or divergent selection. I discuss predictions and suggest tests of this hybrid swarm theory of adaptive radiation and review published molecular phylogenies of adaptive radiations in light of the theory.
Pub.: 17 May '06, Pinned: 01 Aug '17
Abstract: The spatiotemporal response of species to past global change must be understood for adaptive management and to make useful predictions. Characteristics of past population dynamics are imprinted in genes, yet these molecular 'log books' are just beginning to be used to improve forecasts of biotic responses to climate change. This is despite there now being robust quantitative frameworks to incorporate such information. A tighter integration of genetic data into models of species range dynamics should lead to more robust and validated predictions of the response of demographic and evolutionary processes to large-scale environmental change. The use of these multidisciplinary methods will help conservation scientists to better connect theory to the on-ground design and implementation of effective measures to protect biodiversity.
Pub.: 22 Jun '14, Pinned: 01 Aug '17