Working Group 17

Adaptation versus maladaptation in response to environmental change

The global footprint of human activities is severely impacting natural environments, thus posing serious challenges to the success and persistence of wild populations. Although the consequences of environmental change have long been studied, new research is revealing that the potential outcomes are far more complex than once thought. For instance, although evolution has long been recognized to have been critically important for past changes, it was assumed to be too slow to matter on time frames of contemporary interest. Now, however, we know that evolution occurs rapidly and can strongly modify population fitness across generations. This effect appears to be particularly critical when organisms are faced by anthropogenic disturbances, such as exploitation, habitat conversion, pollution, and climate change. Despite documentation of adaptive responses in many such instances, many other examples are also known of populations failing to adapt to environmental change and going extinct as a consequence. Even more recently, several studies have shown that evolution in stressful environments can even cause populations to become maladapted, wherein their ability to persist decreases from one generation to the next. Developing our capacity to predict these different outcomes is of critical value to conservation. Our working group will first flesh out a conceptual framework and mathematical models to guide interpretation and prediction of mal-non-adaptation. Second, we will assemble and curate a freely available online database of evolutionary responses to environmental change. Finally, we will use the database to investigate patterns of mal-non-adaptation in response to environmental change. We will ask whether certain taxa are more or less likely to adapt to particular forms of environmental change. Results will be published and communicated to both scientific and public audiences.


Andrew Hendry (McGill University), Gregor Fussmann (McGill University), Alison Derry (Université du Québec à Montréal), Rowan Barrett (McGill University),


Title Event Number of Participants Date