Fast evolution affects everyone, everywhereDecember 05, 2016
Rapid evolution of other species happens all around us all the time - and many of the most extreme examples are associated with human influences.
In a theme issue of the scientific journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, researchers from McGill University have helped pull together the latest research on this phenomenon. The theme issue shows how humans affect the evolution of other species, and how those evolutionary changes can influence human societies. In many cases, these effects play out over only a few years to decades -- more quickly than biologists traditionally thought possible.
"Evolution is occurring all around us all the time, and it is influencing our environment, our health, and our overall well-being" says Andrew Hendry, professor in the Redpath Museum and Department of Biology at McGill University, and one of the editors of the theme issue.
When humans are involved, selection pressures on a species often become very strong, leading to fast evolution.
Consider three examples:
Commercial fishing. When fishing pressure is high, the fish evolve to reproduce when they are younger and smaller, and thus tend to have fewer, smaller offspring. This evolutionary change can, in turn, reduce fisheries yields and the sustainability.
Invasive species. The movement of species to new places in the world instigates evolution in those invasive species, which increases their rate of spread and impact on native species. Those native species can then sometimes evolve in response, potentially arresting the invader's spread and mitigating its impact.
Urbanization. The development of cities dramatically changes many aspects of the environment and, hence, can instigate evolution in a variety of species. As examples, plants evolve decreased seed dispersal to compensate for the expansion of uninhabitable pavement, animals evolve resistance to industrial and residential chemicals, and bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics.
The collection of studies in the theme issue provides a rallying point for broader discussions of how human influences shape evolution and how that evolution, in turn, influences species traits, biodiversity, and "ecosystem services" - the benefits that nature provides to humans, such as food, water and clean air.
"Evolution will fundamentally alter how species and ecosystems respond to environmental change," Hendry says. "Evolution therefore needs to be an integral part of our assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services."
The research was funded by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Related Biodiversity Articles:
The species-area relationship (SAC) is a long-time considered pattern in ecology and is discussed in most of academic Ecology books.
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are not in better environmental shape than the rest of the world.
A unique international study has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in much better ecological shape than the rest of the world.
The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been brought into question in a study publishing on March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, by an international team lead by Steven L.
Why is the diversity of animals and plants so unevenly distributed on our planet?
Could birdwatching or monitoring tree blossoms in your community make a difference in global environmental research?
A new global assessment of forests -- perhaps the largest terrestrial repositories of biodiversity -- suggests that, on average, a 10 percent loss in biodiversity leads to a 2 to 3 percent loss in the productivity, including biomass, that forests can offer.
Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research.
A striking decline in ant biodiversity found on land converted to a rubber plantation in China.
Nitrogen pollution is a recognized threat to sensitive species and ecosystems.
Related Biodiversity Reading:
Biodiversity: An Introduction
by Kevin J. Gaston (Author), John I. Spicer (Author)
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD ARTWORK
This concise introductory text provides a complete overview of biodiversity - what it is, how it arose, its distribution, why it is important, human impact upon it, and what should be done to maintain it.Timely overview of the serious attempts made to quantify and describe biodiversity in a scientific way Acts as an easy entry point into the primary literature Provides real-world examples of key issues, including illustrations of major temporal and spatial patterns in biodiversity Designed primarily with undergraduate... View Details
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert (Author)
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERA NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALISTOver the last half billion years there have been Five mass extinctions when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs This time around the cataclysm is us In prose that is at once frank entertaining and deeply informed New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the... View Details
Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity
by Eric Chivian (Editor), Aaron Bernstein (Editor)
The Earth's biodiversity-the rich variety of life on our planet-is disappearing at an alarming rate. And while many books have focused on the expected ecological consequences, or on the aesthetic, ethical, sociological, or economic dimensions of this loss, Sustaining Life is the first book to examine the full range of potential threats that diminishing biodiversity poses to human health.
Edited and written by Harvard Medical School physicians Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, along with more than 100 leading scientists who contributed to writing and reviewing the book,... View Details
Biodiversity (Papers from the 1st National Forum on Biodiversity, September 1986, Washington, D.C.)
by Edward O. Wilson (Editor), Frances M. Peter (Editor)
This important book for scientists and nonscientists alike calls attention to a most urgent global problem: the rapidly accelerating loss of plant and animal species to increasing human population pressure and the demands of economic development. Based on a major conference sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian Institution, Biodiversity creates a systematic framework for analyzing the problem and searching for possible solutions.
Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth (CitizenKid)
by Rochelle Strauss (Author), Margot Thompson (Illustrator)
If every known species on Earth were a leaf on a tree, that tree would have 1 750 000 leaves. Since humans count for just one leaf on the tree, we have a lot to learn about the millions of other forms of life with which we share the world. A dazzlingly illustrated and child-friendly introduction to biodiversity, Tree of Life shows how living things are classified into five kingdoms -- and how each has much to tell us about all aspects of life on our planet. Tree of Life is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global... View Details
Messages from Islands: A Global Biodiversity Tour
by Ilkka Hanski (Author)
From a small island in the Baltic Sea to the large tropical islands of Borneo and Madagascar, Messages from Islands is a global tour of these natural, water-bound laboratories. In this career-spanning work, Ilkka Hanski draws upon the many islands on which he performed fieldwork to convey key themes in ecology. By exploring the islands’ biodiversity as an introduction to general issues, Hanski helps us to learn how species and communities interact in fragmented landscapes, how evolution generates biodiversity, and how this biodiversity is maintained over time.
Beginning... View Details
The Biodiversity Crisis: Losing What Counts (American Museum of Natural History Book)
by American Museum of Natural History (Compiler), Michael J. Novacek (Compiler)
The Biodiversity Crisis offers general audiences a clear understanding of the current threat to life on Earth posed by the fastest mass extinction in Earth’s history, which has taken place over the last five hundred years. Unlike prior extinctions, this one is clearly a direct result of human activity, not of natural phenomena. Yet the public remains unaware of the crisis in sustaining biodiversity—the variety and interdependence of all living things on Earth.
Published in conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History, whose major Hall of Biodiversity opened to... View Details
Human Biodiversity: Genes, Race, and History (Foundations of Human Behavior)
by Jonathan Marks (Author)
Are humans unique? This simple question, at the very heart of the hybrid field of biological anthropology, poses one of the false of dichotomies―with a stereotypical humanist answering in the affirmative and a stereotypical scientist answering in the negative.
The study of human biology is different from the study of the biology of other species. In the simplest terms, people's lives and welfare may depend upon it, in a sense that they may not depend on the study of other scientific subjects. Where science is used to validate ideas―four out of five scientists preferring... View Details
The Diversity of Life: With a New Preface (Questions of Science)
by Edward O. Wilson (Author)
View a collection of videos on Professor Wilson entitled "On the Relation of Science and the Humanities"
"In the Amazon Basin the greatest violence sometimes begins as a flicker of light beyond the horizon. There in the perfect bowl of the night sky, untouched by light from any human source, a thunderstorm sends its premonitory signal and begins a slow journey to the observer, who thinks: the world is about to change." Watching from the edge of the Brazilian rain forest, witness to the sort of violence nature visits upon its creatures, Edward O. Wilson reflects on the crucible of... View Details
Marine Biology: Function, Biodiversity, Ecology
by Jeffrey S. Levinton (Author)
* Examines marine biology from a unique global and evolutionary perspective
* Written in a clear, conversational style
* Filled with full-color photographs from the world's finest marine biologists
* Robust pedagogy includes "Key Concept" headings, "Basic Facts" summaries, "Going Deeper" boxes, end-of-chapter exercises, and more
Companion Website (www.oup.com/us/levinton): Maintained by the author, this comprehensive resource offers... View Details