Toward an integration of evolutionary biology and ecosystem science




Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 690–701


At present, the disciplines of evolutionary biology and ecosystem science are weakly integrated. As a result, we have a poor understanding of how the ecological and evolutionary processes that create, maintain, and change biological diversity affect the flux of energy and materials in global biogeochemical cycles. The goal of this article was to review several research fields at the interfaces between ecosystem science, community ecology and evolutionary biology, and suggest new ways to integrate evolutionary biology and ecosystem science. In particular, we focus on how phenotypic evolution by natural selection can influence ecosystem functions by affecting processes at the environmental, population and community scale of ecosystem organization. We develop an eco-evolutionary model to illustrate linkages between evolutionary change (e.g. phenotypic evolution of producer), ecological interactions (e.g. consumer grazing) and ecosystem processes (e.g. nutrient cycling). We conclude by proposing experiments to test the ecosystem consequences of evolutionary changes.