Evosystem Services: Rapid Evolution and the Provision of Ecosystem Services


Evolution is recognized as the source of all organisms, and hence many ecosystem services. However, the role that contemporary evolution might play in maintaining and enhancing specific ecosystem services has largely been overlooked. Recent advances at the interface of ecology and evolution have demonstrated how contemporary evolution can shape ecological communities and ecosystem functions. We propose a definition and quantitative criteria to study how rapid evolution affects ecosystem services (here termed contemporary evosystem services) and present plausible scenarios where such services might exist. We advocate for the direct measurement of contemporary evosystem services to improve understanding of how changing environments will alter resource availability and human well-being, and highlight the potential utility of managing rapid evolution for future ecosystem services.

Trends in Ecology & Evolution

Evolutionary change can occur rapidly enough to alter community dynamics and ecosystem functions.

Despite evidence of the importance of rapid evolution in ecological processes, there has been little discussion of the role of rapid evolution in the provisioning of ecosystem services. We discuss putative cases where rapid evolution could alter the provision of ecosystem services, which we define as contemporary evosystem services, with a focus on cases where evolution enhances or maintains services. We provide criteria for measuring these contemporary evosystem services with the aim of spurring empirical research on the link between rapid evolution and ecosystem services.