Get access

Towards a mechanistic understanding of dispersal evolution in plants: conservation implications

Authors

  • Justin M. J. Travis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ
      Correspondence: Justin M. J. Travis, Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ, UK.
      E-mail: justin.travis@abdn.ac.uk
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Hannah S. Smith,

    1. Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen. AB15 8QH
    2. Biodiversity and Macroecology Group, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Sudheera M. W. Ranwala

    1. Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ
    2. Department of Plant Sciences, University of Colombo, PO Box 1490, Colombo, Sri Lanka
    Search for more papers by this author

Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Corrigendum Volume 16, Issue 5, 877, Article first published online: 16 August 2010

Correspondence: Justin M. J. Travis, Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ, UK.
E-mail: justin.travis@abdn.ac.uk

Abstract

Aim  A species’ dispersal characteristics will play a key role in determining its likely fate during a period of environmental change. However, these characteristics are not constant within a species – instead, there is often both considerable interpopulation and interindividual variability. Also changes in selection pressures can result in the evolution of dispersal characteristics, with knock-on consequences for a species’ population dynamics. Our aim here is to make our theoretical understanding of dispersal evolution more conservation-relevant by moving beyond the rather abstract, phenomenological models that have dominated the literature towards a more mechanism-based approach.

Methods  We introduce a continuous-space, individual-based model for wind-dispersed plants where release height is determined by an individual’s ‘genotype’. A mechanistic wind dispersal model is used to simulate seed dispersal. Selection acts on variation in release height that is generated through mutation.

Results  We confirm that, when habitat is fragmented, both evolutionary rescue and evolutionary suicide remain possible outcomes when a mechanistic dispersal model is used. We also demonstrate the potential for what we term evolutionary entrapment. A population that under some conditions can evolve to be sufficiently dispersive that it expands rapidly across a fragmented landscape can, under different conditions, become trapped by a combination of limited dispersal and a large gap between patches.

Conclusions  While developing evolutionary models to be used as conservation tools is undoubtedly a challenge, we believe that, with a concerted collaborative effort linking the knowledge and methods of ecologists, evolutionary biologists and geneticists, it is an achievable aim.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary