Contemporary evolution meets conservation biology II: impediments to integration and application

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Conservation biology needs to be concerned not just with exogenous threats to populations, but also with the changing nature of populations themselves. In a previous review paper, we highlighted evolution in contemporary time (years to decades) as a largely overlooked aspect of population responses to environmental perturbations. We argued that these responses might affect the fate of natural, managed and exotic populations. In the present review, we discuss issues that may limit the integration of contemporary evolution into conservation biology—with the intent that recognition of these limitations may foster research, discussion and resolution. In particular, we consider (1) alternative perceptions of “evolutionary” and “ecological” time, (2) the role of contemporary evolution as an ecological process, (3) fitness as a bridge between evolution and conservation, and (4) challenges faced by conservation strategies based on gene flow estimation or manipulation. We close by highlighting some situations in which current conservation approaches and contemporary evolution may require reconciliation.

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