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Keywords:

  • conservation;
  • eco-evolutionary dynamics;
  • environmental change;
  • epidemiology;
  • host–pathogen interactions;
  • zoonosis

Abstract

Existing and emerging infectious diseases are among the most pressing global threats to biodiversity, food safety and human health. The complex interplay between host, pathogen and environment creates a challenge for conserving species, communities and ecosystem functions, while mediating the many known ecological and socio-economic negative effects of disease. Despite the clear ecological and evolutionary contexts of host–pathogen dynamics, approaches to managing wildlife disease remain predominantly reactionary, focusing on surveillance and some attempts at eradication. A few exceptional studies have heeded recent calls for better integration of ecological concepts in the study and management of wildlife disease; however, evolutionary concepts remain underused. Applied evolution consists of four principles: evolutionary history, genetic and phenotypic variation, selection and eco-evolutionary dynamics. In this article, we first update a classical framework for understanding wildlife disease to integrate better these principles. Within this framework, we explore the evolutionary implications of environment–disease interactions. Subsequently, we synthesize areas where applied evolution can be employed in wildlife disease management. Finally, we discuss some future directions and challenges. Here, we underscore that despite some evolutionary principles currently playing an important role in our understanding of disease in wild animals, considerable opportunities remain for fostering the practice of evolutionarily enlightened wildlife disease management.