Evolutionary Change in Human-altered Environments


Africa (Cameroon), South America (Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela)

With the global human population reaching seven billion in 2011, human impacts are causing changes in the evolutionary processes underlying and maintaining diversity. The average rate of loss for animal and plant populations and their habitats is estimated to be 1% annually, with two-thirds of the world’s terrestrial land area now devoted directly to supporting human populations, either through agriculture, fisheries, urbanization, or infrastructure. As a consequence of these impacts, we are witnessing a global, but unplanned, evolutionary experiment with the biotic diversity of the planet. Growing empirical evidence indicates that human-induced evolutionary changes impact every corner of the globe. Such changes are occurring rapidly, even at the level of a human lifespan, bear huge economical costs and pose serious threats to both humans and the biodiversity of the planet. Evolutionary phenomena, such as industrial melanism in the peppered moth (Biston betularia) — a classical example of rapid evolution driven by humans once considered atypical — are now becoming commonplace. The Center for Tropical Research is leading several research efforts to understand how humans are changing evolutionary processes.

CTR and the Institute of Environment and Sustainability sponsored an international summit in February 2007 to discuss the effects of human activity on climate change, habitat degradation, captive breeding and exploitation, and invasive species and pathogens. The journal Molecular Ecology published the papers presented by more than 40 prominent biologists at the summit in its January 3, 2008 Special Issue. Click here to view the Special Issue online and the summit presentations.

A Special Issue of the journal of Evolutionary Applications,published in March 2011, contains 16 articles by CTR researchers and other evolutionary biologists on "Interdisciplinary Solutions to Evolutionary Challenges in Food, Health and the Environment". Click here to view the Special Issue of Evolutionary Applications.

Additional Resources

For additional information on ongoing evolutionary changes, see the website for the Institute for Contemporary Evolution. The Institute builds awareness of contemporary evolution, and promotes evolutionary applications in conservation biology, medicine, and agriculture. 

Related Publications

2014 Smith TB, Kinnison MT, Straus SY, Fuller TL, Carrol SP. Prescriptive evolution to conserve and manage biodiversity. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 45:1.1-1.22. doi:10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-120213-091747
2014 Harrigan R, Thomassen H, Buermann W, Smith TB. A continental risk assessment of West Nile virus under climate change. Global Change Biology doi:10.1111/gcb.12534
2013 Smith, T.B., R. Harrigan, A. Kirsche, W. Buermann, S. Saatchi, D. Blumstein, S. de Kort, H. Slabbekoorn. Predicting birdsong from space. Evolutionary Applications. DOI: 10.1111/eva.12072. PDF
2013 Thomassen, H.A., T. Fuller, S. Asefi-Najafabady, J.A.G. Shiplacoff, P.M. Mulembakani, S.C. Johnston, N.K. Kisalu, T.K. Lutete, S. Blumberg, J.N. Fair, N.D. Wolfe, R.K. Shongo, M. LeBreton, H. Meyer, L.L. Wright, J. Muyembe, W. Buermann, E. Okitolonda, L.E. Hensley, J.O. Lloyd-Smight, T.B. Smith, A.W. Rimoin. Pathogen-host associations and predicted range shifts of human monkeypox in response to climate change in Central Africa. PLoS ONE 8(7): e66071. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066071 PDF
2012 Fuller, T., S. Bensch, I. Muller, J. Novembre, J. Perez-Tris, R.E. Ricklefs, T.B. Smith, J. Waldenstrom. The ecology of emerging infectious diseases in migratory birds: an assessment of the role of climate change and priorities for future research. EcoHealth 9: 80-88. PDF
2012 Hosseini P.R., T. Fuller, R. Harrigan, D. Zhao, C.S. Arriola, et al. (2013) Metapopulation Dynamics Enable Persistence of Influenza A, Including A/H5N1, in Poultry. PLoS ONE 8(12): e80091. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080091 PDF
2012 Loiseau, C., R.J. Harrigan, A. Robert, R.C.K. Bowie, H.A. Thomassen, T.B. Smith, R.N.M. Sehgal. Host and habitat specialization of avian malaria in Africa. Molecular Ecology 21: 431-441 PDF
2011 Buermann, W. J. A. Chaves, R. Dudley, J. A. Mcguire, T. B. Smith, and D. L. Altshuler. Projected changes in elevational distribution and flight performance of montane Neotropical hummingbirds in response to climate change. Global Change Biology 17: 1671-1680. PDF
2011 Thomassen, H. A., T. Fuller, W. Buermann, B. Milá, C. M. Kieswetter, P. Jarrín-V., S. E. Cameron, E. Mason, R. Schweizer, J. Schlunegger, J. Chan, O. Wang, M. Peralvo, C. J. Schneider, C. H. Graham, J. P. Pollinger, S. Saatchi, R. K. Wayne, and T. B. Smith. Mapping evolutionary process: a multi-taxa approach to conservation prioritization. Evolutionary Applications 4: 397-413. PDF
2011 Fuller, T.  H. A. Thomassen, P. M. Mulembakani, S. C. Johnston, J. O. Lloyd-Smith, N. K. Kisalu, T. K. Lutete, S. Blumberg, J. N. Fair, N. D. Wolfe, R. L. Shongo, P. Formenty, H. Meyer, L. L. Wright, J.-J. Muyembe, W. Buermann, S. S. Saatchi, E. Okitolonda,  L. Hensley,  T. B. Smith, and A. W. Rimoin. Using remote sensing to map the risk of human monkeypox virus in the Congo Basin. EcoHealth. doi: 10.1007/s10393-010-0355-5. PDF
2011 Hendry, A. P., M. T. Kinnison, M. Heino, T. Day, T. B. Smith, G. Fitt, C. Bergstrom, J. Oakeshott, P. S. Jørgensen, M. Zalucki, S. Southerton, A. Sih, R. F. Denison, and S. P. Carroll. Evolutionary principles and their practical application. Evolutionary Applications 4: 159-183. PDF
2011 Marnocha, E., J. Pollinger, And T. B. Smith. Human-Induced morphological shifts in an island lizard. Evolutionary Applications 4: 388-396. PDF
2011 Laurance W. F., D. C. Useche, L. P. Shoo, S. K. Herzog, M. Kessler, F. Escobar, G. Brehm, J. C. Axmacher, I. C. Chen, L. A. Gámez, P. Hietz, K. Fiedler, T. Pyrcz, J. Wolf, C. L. Merkord, C. Cardelus, A. R. Marshall, C. Ah-Peng, G. H. Aplet, M. del Coro Arizmendi, W. J. Baker, J. Barone, C. A. Brühl, R.W. Bussmann, D. Cicuzza, G. Eilu, M. E. Favila, P. Hietz, A. Hemp, C. Hemp, J. Homeier, R. B. Huey, J. Hurtado, J. Jankowski, G. Kattán, J. Kluge, T. Krömer, D. Lees, M. Lehnert, J. T. Longino, J. Lovett, P. H. Martin, B. D. Patterson, R. G. Pearson, K. S.-H. Peh, B. Richardson, M. Richardson, M. Samways, F. Senbeta, T. B. Smith, T. Utteridge, J. E. Watkins, R. Wilson, S. E. Williams, and C. D. Thomas. Global warming, elevational ranges and the vulnerability of tropical biota. Biological Conservation 144: 548-557. PDF
2010 Freedman, A. H., Buermann, W, Mitchard, E. T. A., DeFries, R. S., and T. B. Smith. Human impacts flatten rainforest savanna gradient and reduce adaptive diversity in a rainforest bird. PLoS ONE 5: e13088. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013088. PDF
2010 Harrigan, R. J., H. A. Thomassen, W. Buermann, R. F. Cummings, M. E. Kahn, and T. B. Smith. Economic conditions predict prevalence of West Nile virus. PLoS ONE 5: e15437. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015437. PDF
2009 Chasar, A., C. Loiseau, G, Valkiūnas, T. Iezhova, T. B. Smith, and R. N. M. Sehgal. Prevalence and diversity patterns of avian blood parasites in degraded African rainforest habitats. Molecular Ecology 18:  4121-4133. PDF
2009 Kirschel, A. N. G., D. T. Blumstein, and T. B. Smith.  Character displacement of song and morphology in African tinkerbirds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 8256-8261. PDF
2009 Freedman, A. H., W. Buermann, M. LeBreton, L. Chirio, and T. B. Smith. Modeling the effects of anthropogenic habitat change on savanna snake invasions into African rainforest. Conservation Biology 23: 81-92. PDF
2008 Smith, T. B., and G. Grether. The importance of conserving evolutionary processes. Pages 85-98. In S. P. Carroll and C.W. Fox (Eds.). Conservation Biology: Evolution in Action. Oxford University Press, Oxford. PDF
2008 Smith, T. B., B. Milá, G. F. Grether, H. Slabbekoorn, I. Sepil, W. Buermann, S. Saatchi, J. P. and Pollinger. Evolutionary consequences of human disturbance in a rainforest bird species from central Africa. Molecular Ecology 17: 58-71. PDF
2008 Smith, T. B., and L. Bernatchez. Preface to the Special Issue. Evolutionary change in human-altered environments. Molecular Ecology.17: 1-8. PDF
2008 Evolutionary change in human-altered environments (T. B. Smith and L. Bernatchez, eds.) Molecular Ecology 17, 1-499. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mec.2008.17.issue-1/issuetoc
2007 Wang, B. C., V. L. Sork, M. T. Leong, and T. B. Smth. Hunting of mammals reduces seed removal and dispersal of the Afrotropical tree, Antrocaryon klaineanum (Anacardiaceae). Biotropica 39: 340-347. PDF
2005 Smith, T. B., S. Saatchi, C. Graham, H. Slabbekoorn, and G. Spicer. Putting process on the map: why ecotones are important for preserving biodiversity. Pages 166-197. In A. Purvis, J. Gittleman, and T. Brooks (Eds.). Phylogeny and Conservation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. PDF
2005 Graham, C. H., T. B. Smith, and M. Languy. Current and historical factors influencing patterns of species richness and turnover of birds in the Gulf of Guinea highlands. Journal of Biogeography 32: 1371-1384. PDF
1995 Smith, T. B., L. A. Freed, J. K. Lepson, and J. H. Carothers. Evolutionary consequences of extinctions in populations of a Hawaiian honeycreeper. Conservation Biology 9: 107-113. PDF
1993 Smith, T. B., M. W. Bruford, and R. K. Wayne. The preservation of process: the missing element of conservation programs. Biodiversity Letters 1: 164-167. PDF

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Center for Tropical Research | UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
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