A pinboard by
Jan Engler

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.


Earth as a Hybrid Planet - The Anthropocene in an Evolutionary Astrobiological Context

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

Contrasting patterns of survival and dispersal in multiple habitats reveal an ecological trap in a food-caching bird.

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