Adaptation and Evolutionary Rescue in Metapopulations Experiencing Environmental Deterioration

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Science  10 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6035, pp. 1327-1330
DOI: 10.1126/science.1203105

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It is not known whether evolution will usually be rapid enough to allow a species to adapt and persist in a deteriorating environment. We tracked the eco-evolutionary dynamics of metapopulations with a laboratory model system of yeast exposed to salt stress. Metapopulations experienced environmental deterioration at three different rates and their component populations were either unconnected or connected by local dispersal or by global dispersal. We found that adaptation was favored by gradual deterioration and local dispersal. After further abrupt deterioration, the frequency of evolutionary rescue depended on both the prior rate of deterioration and the rate of dispersal. Adaptation was surprisingly frequent and rapid in small peripheral populations. Thus, evolutionary dynamics affect both the persistence and the range of a species after environmental deterioration.

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