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Abstract Detail

Address of the BSA President-Elect - Loren Rieseberg

Rieseberg, Loren [1].

Plant Evolution in a Human-altered World.

In a poster designed by cartoonist Walt Kelley to publicize the first annual earth day in 1970, Pogo the Possum is shown picking up trash that humans have strewn across his home in Okefenokee Swamp, with the headline, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’ This quote has even greater resonance today. Humans are the main threat to life on our planet and have emerged as its dominant selective force. This provides unparalleled opportunities for evolutionary biologists to study evolution in action. However, it also leads to the question of whether plants (and other organisms) can evolve fast enough to keep up with the rapid pace of human-caused environmental change. I will discuss what we have learned about plant adaptation from studies of contemporary evolution. Plant evolution in the Anthropocene is pervasive and can be rapid, but in many species it lags behind environmental change due to long generation times and limited dispersal. In the absence of intervention, extinction of such taxa seems likely. To maintain productive communities and ecosystems, botanists must develop strategies to aid adaptation when desired (e.g., evolving climate-adapted crops or forests) and hinder it when necessary (e.g., in weeds). A key scientific challenge will be to scale up from predictions of the evolutionary responses of populations to ecosystems (the scale of primary interest for conservation policy and resource management), because of unknowns such as dispersal rates and the effects of species interactions. An even greater challenge will be to harmonize science-based recommendations for facilitating adaptation with the political realities of the decision-making process. Ultimately, our focus going forward should be on adaptation rather than preservation of the status quo.

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1 - University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

none specified

Presentation Type: Special Presentation
Session: S7, Address of the BSA President-Elect
Location: Fort Worth Ballroom 4/Omni Hotel
Date: Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
Time: 5:30 PM
Number: S7001
Abstract ID:599
Candidate for Awards:None

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