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Why evolution matters for species conservation: perspectives from three case studies of plant metapopulations
We advocate the advantage of an evolutionary approach to conservation biology that considers evolutionary history at various levels of biological organization. We review work on three separate plant taxa, spanning from one to multiple decades, illustrating extremes in metapopulation functioning. We show how the rare endemics Centaurea corymbosa (Clape Massif, France) and Brassica insularis in Corsica (France) may be caught in an evolutionary trap: disruption of metapopulation functioning due to lack of colonization of new sites may have counterselected traits such as dispersal ability or self-compatibility, making these species particularly vulnerable to any disturbance. The third case study concerns the evolution of life history strategies in the highly diverse genus Leucadendron of the South African fynbos. There, fire disturbance and the recolonization phase after fires are so integral to the functioning of populations that recruitment of new individuals is conditioned by fire. We show how past adaptation to different fire regimes and climatic constraints make species with different life history syndromes more or less vulnerable to global changes. These different case studies suggest that management strategies should promote evolutionary potential and evolutionary processes to better protect extant biodiversity and biodiversification.
conservation genetics, contemporary evolution, dispersal, management, mating systems, natural selection, phylogenetics
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