Fragmentation—the process by which habitats are transformed into smaller patches isolated from each other—has been identified as a major threat for biodiversity. Fragmentation has well-established demographic and population genetic consequences, eroding genetic diversity and hindering gene flow among patches. However, fragmentation should also select on life history, both predictably through increased isolation, demographic stochasticity and edge effects, and more idiosyncratically via altered biotic interactions. While species have adapted to natural fragmentation, adaptation to anthropogenic fragmentation has received little attention. In this review, we address how and whether organisms might adapt to anthropogenic fragmentation. Drawing on selected case studies and evolutionary ecology models, we show that anthropogenic fragmentation can generate selection on traits at both the patch and landscape scale, and affect the adaptive potential of populations. We suggest that dispersal traits are likely to experience especially strong selection, as dispersal both enables migration among patches and increases the risk of landing in the inhospitable matrix surrounding them. We highlight that suites of associated traits are likely to evolve together. Importantly, we show that adaptation will not necessarily rescue populations from the negative effects of fragmentation, and may even exacerbate them, endangering the entire metapopulation.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Human influences on evolution, and the ecological and societal consequences’.
One contribution of 18 to a theme issue ‘Human influences on evolution, and the ecological and societal consequences’.
- Accepted July 12, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.