Genetic variation and community change – selection, evolution, and feedbacks


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1. There is relatively little information on how evolutionary processes that alter genetic variation in a focal species may affect interactions with other species, impact the structure or function of the community and ecosystem, and affect evolutionary feedbacks among interacting species through time.

2. Because evolution can occur at ecological time-scales, it is important to understand how major selective events, such as climatic changes, can impact the community of interacting species and ecosystem processes by changing intraspecific genetic variation.

3. The evidence linking genetic variation and evolution to community change and feedbacks has arisen from several different approaches whose results have not been synthesized into one conceptual framework, and whose commonalities may not be fully understood.

4. This review synthesizes several different experimental approaches on how evolution may impact communities and ecosystems and focuses on five main issues: (i) the genetic basis to communities and ecosystems; (ii) the community and ecosystem consequences of among-population genetic differentiation; (iii) the role of local adaptation and co-evolution; (iv) the effects of trans-generational feedbacks and the eco-evo dynamic and; (v) the integration of community and ecosystem genetics and multi-level selection.

5. Evolution can alter intraspecific genetic variation to affect indirect genetic effects and feedbacks. Future studies should investigate how communities and ecosystems are affected when evolution causes the strength of feedbacks to change.