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Linking evolutionary potential to extinction risk: Applications and future directions

November 1, 2022

Extinction-risk assessments play a major role in prioritizing conservation action at national and international levels. However, quantifying extinction risk is challenging, especially when including the full suite of adaptive responses to environmental change. In particular, evolutionary potential (EP), the capacity to evolve genetically based changes that increase fitness under changing conditions, has proven difficult to evaluate, limiting its inclusion in risk assessments. Theory, experiments, simulations, and field studies all highlight the importance of EP in characterizing and mitigating extinction risk. Disregarding EP can therefore result in ineffective allocation of resources and inadequate recovery planning. Fortunately, proxies for EP can be estimated from environmental, phenotypic, and genetic data. Some proxies can be incorporated into quantitative extinction-risk assessments, whereas others better inform basic conservation actions that maximize resilience to future change. Integration of EP into conservation decision-making is challenging but essential and remains an important area for innovation in applied conservation science.

Publication Year 2022
Title Linking evolutionary potential to extinction risk: Applications and future directions
DOI 10.1002/fee.2552
Authors Brenna R. Forester, Erik A. Beever, Catherine Darst, Jennifer Szymanski, W. Chris Funk
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Index ID 70240390
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center