The evolutionary impacts of conservation actions
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Conservation management for environmental sustainability is now ubiquitous. The ecological effects of these actions are well-intentioned and well-known. Although conservation biologists and managers increasingly incorporate evolutionary considerations into management plans, the evolutionary consequences of management strategies have remained relatively unexplored and unconsidered. But what are the evolutionary consequences? Here, we advocate a new research agenda focused on identifying, predicting, and countering the evolutionary consequences of conservation management. We showcase the examples of park creation and invasive species management, and speculate further on five other major methods of management. Park creation may cause selection for altered dispersal and behavior that utilizes human foods and structures. Management of invasive species may favor the evolution of resistance to or tolerance of control methods. In these and other cases, evolution may cause deviations from the predicted consequences of management strategies optimized without considering evolution, particularly when management results in or coincides with major environmental change, if population size change strongly, or if life histories are short enough to allow more rapid evolution. We call for research focused on: (1) experimental predictions and tests of evolution under particular management strategies, (2) widespread monitoring of managed populations and communities, and (3) meta-analysis and theoretical study aimed at simplifying the process of evolutionary prediction, particularly at systematizing a means of identifying traits likely to evolve due to likely existing genetic variance or high mutation rates. Ultimately, conservation biologists should incorporate evolutionary prediction into management planning to prevent the evolutionary domestication of the species that they are trying to protect.
KeywordsAnthropogenic impact Evolutionary domestication Invasive species Parks Restoration Unintended consequence
We would like to thank J. Byers, J. Drake, M.J. Hutchings, and three anonymous reviewers for providing constructive critiques of this manuscript, and S. Lance for contributing to the discussion. We also thank E. Menges and K. Tali for providing photographs of management practices. The authors wish to report no conflicts of interest.
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