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From genes to ecosystems: an emerging synthesis of eco-evolutionary dynamics

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 08:35 authored by Bailey, J, Hendry, AP, Kinnison, MT, Post, DM, Palkovacs, EP, Pelletier, F, Harmon, LJ, Schweitzer, J
A synthesis is underway between ecology and evolution, partly brought about by the realization that evolutionary change can take place on ecological timescales (Hairston et al., 2005; Whitham et al., 2006; Carroll et al., 2007). This synthesis attempts to understand the dynamic interplay of ecological and evolutionary processes that results from natural or anthropogenic selective forces (Lankau & Strauss, 2007). Moreover, this synthesis represents an integration of several ‘genes to ecosystems’ approaches, including ‘ecological stochiometry’, ‘community genetics’ (Whitham et al., 2006) and ‘niche construction’. United under the framework of ‘eco-evolutionary dynamics’, these ideas seek to link genetic and phenotypic variation to population dynamics, biodiversity and ecosystem function, and place these disciplines in a dynamic evolutionary framework (i.e. understanding the ecological consequences of evolutionary processes and the evolutionary consequences of ecological interactions). This is not an easy endeavor because any such synthesis needs to be broadly multidisciplinary and integrative (Whitham et al., 2006). And yet the potential pay offs are large given that genetic variation across plant and animal systems can have extended consequences at the population, community and ecosystem levels. These consequences can come in the form of the vital rates of survival, reproduction and migration, as well as arthropod and aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity, soil microbial communities, trophic interactions, carbon storage, soil nitrogen availability, dissolved organic nitrogen and production of primary producers (Whitham et al., 2006; Bailey et al., 2009; Ezard et al., 2009; Harmon et al., 2009; Johnson et al., 2009; Palkovacs et al., 2009; Post & Palkovacs, 2009). The effects of genetic or phenotypic variation are not limited to single systems or to ecologically important species (i.e. keystone species, dominant species, foundation species, ecosystem engineers), although these are excellent places to start looking. Instead, genetic variation seems to have effects that are broadly distributed across plant and animal systems - and these effects can be similar in magnitude to those of nonevolutionary ecological variables, such as climate, species invasion and habitat quality (Hairston et al., 2005; Bailey et al., 2009; Ezard et al., 2009; Palkovacs et al., 2009; Post & Palkovacs, 2009).


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New Phytologist










School of Natural Sciences


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

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9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

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Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences

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