Connecting Research and Practice to Enhance the Evolutionary Potential of Species Under Climate Change

Laura M. Thompson, Lindsey L. Thurman, Carly N. Cook, Erik A. Beever, Carla M. Sgrò, Andrew Battles, Carlos A. Botero, John E. Gross, et al.
Posted on: 3/24/2023 - Updated on: 3/24/2023

Posted by




Resource managers have rarely accounted for evolutionary dynamics in the design or implementation of climate change adaptation strategies. We brought the research and management communities together to identify challenges and opportunities for applying evidence from evolutionary science to support on-the-ground actions intended to enhance species' evolutionary potential. We amalgamated input from natural-resource practitioners and interdisciplinary scientists to identify information needs, current knowledge that can fill those needs, and future avenues for research.

Three focal areas that can guide engagement include:

  1. Recognizing when to act
  2. Understanding the feasibility of assessing evolutionary potential
  3. Identifying best management practices

Although researchers commonly propose using molecular methods to estimate genetic diversity and gene flow as key indicators of evolutionary potential, we offer guidance on several additional attributes (and their proxies) that may also guide decision-making, particularly in the absence of genetic data.

Finally, we outline existing decision-making frameworks that can help managers compare alternative strategies for supporting evolutionary potential, with the goal of increasing the effective use of evolutionary information, particularly for species of conservation concern. We caution, however, that arguing over nuance can generate confusion; instead, dedicating increased focus on a decision-relevant evidence base may better lend itself to climate adaptation actions.


Thompson, L. M., Thurman, L. L., Cook, C. N., Beever, E. A., Sgrò, C. M., Battles, A., Botero, C. A., Gross, J. E., Hall, K. R., Hendry, A. P., Hoffmann, A. A., Hoving, C., LeDee, O. E., Mengelt, C., Nicotra, A. B., Niver, R. A., Pérez-Jvostov, F., Quiñones, R. M., Schuurman, G. W., … Whiteley, A. (2023). Connecting research and practice to enhance the evolutionary potential of species under climate change. Conservation Science and Practice, 5(2), e12855.

Affiliated Organizations

The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is an international professional organization dedicated to promoting the scientific study of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biological diversity. The Society's membership comprises a wide range of people interested in the conservation and study of biological diversity: resource managers, educators, government and private conservation workers, and students make up the more than 5,000 members world-wide.  

Related Resources