The need for eco-evolutionary biology in adaptive management under climate change
Many studies have shown the importance of population divergence in structuring the dynamics and geographic distribution of species, as well as interspecific interactions. How these eco-evolutionary factors translate to species’ and community responses under future climate change, however, is less explored. As a consequence, for example, we do not have reliable methods of incorporating evolutionary differences within species into predictive modeling. Despite persistent knowledge gaps, the role of evolutionary theory and data in global change biology will need to expand as adaptive and manipulative management increases. To illustrate this growing role, I discuss four essential knowledge gaps that represent crucial research areas for evolutionary biologists who aim to inform management activities.
The first way that evolutionary biology must contribute to conservation under climate change is through improved predictions of ecological responses, predictions that move away from assuming that species are functionally uniform and thus account for local adaptation. The second is an understanding of natural adaptive capacity and inherent resilience within species to changing conditions. The third is design of effective interventions, potentially including managed relocation and captive breeding, that necessitate understanding of the relationship between genotype and ecological function. The fourth is anticipating the unintended evolutionary consequences of management itself. As we embark on new management techniques for biodiversity, thanks to climate change, we also need new ways of understanding how those activities affect the eco-evolutionary trajectory of non-target species. Each of these needs and gaps will be explored using examples that show how a lack of evolutionary information can lead to unproductive, or even counterproductive, conservation outcomes.