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Keywords:

  • anthropogenic evolution;
  • biodiversity policy;
  • co-evolutionary networks;
  • global change

Abstract

The intensity and speed of human alterations to the planet’s ecosystems are yielding our static, ahistorical view of biodiversity obsolete. Human actions frequently trigger fast evolutionary responses, affect extant genetic variation and result in the establishment of new communities and co-evolutionary networks for which we lack past analogues. Contemporary evolution interplays with ecological changes to determine the response of organisms and ecosystems to anthropogenic pressures. Examples on wild species include responses to harvest (e.g. fisheries, hunting, angling), habitat loss and fragmentation (e.g. genetic effects of isolation), biotic exchange (e.g. evolutionary responses to control measures), climate change (e.g. local adaptation and its interplay with dispersal processes) and the responses of endangered species to conservation measures. A review of international and EU biodiversity policies showed numerous opportunities for the integration of evolutionary knowledge, with the realistic prospect of improving their efficacy. Such opportunities should be extended to other sectoral policies of direct relevance for biodiversity – notably nature conservation, fisheries, agriculture, water resources, spatial planning and climate change. These avenues for improvement are, however, challenged by the low level of enforcement of biodiversity policies, linked to the nonbinding nature of most biodiversity-policy documents, and the decreasing representation of biodiversity in EU’s research policy.