Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Conservation through the lens of (mal)adaptation: concepts and meta-analysis


Derry, Alison et al. (2019), Data from: Conservation through the lens of (mal)adaptation: concepts and meta-analysis, Dryad, Dataset,


Evolutionary approaches are gaining popularity in conservation science, with diverse strategies applied in efforts to support adaptive population outcomes. Yet conservation strategies differ in the type of adaptive outcomes they promote as conservation goals. For instance, strategies based on genetic or demographic rescue implicitly target adaptive population states whereas strategies utilizing transgenerational plasticity or evolutionary rescue implicitly target adaptive processes. These two goals are somewhat polar: adaptive state strategies optimize current population fitness, which should reduce phenotypic and/or genetic variance, reducing adaptability in changing or uncertain environments; adaptive process strategies increase genetic variance, causing maladaptation in the short term, but increase adaptability over the long term. Maladaptation refers to suboptimal population fitness, adaptation refers to optimal population fitness, and (mal)adaptation refers to the continuum of fitness variation from maladaptation to adaptation. Here we present a conceptual classification for conservation that implicitly considers (mal)adaptation in the short-term and long-term outcomes of conservation strategies. We describe cases of how (mal)adaptation is implicated in traditional conservation strategies, as well as strategies that have potential as a conservation tool but are relatively underutilized. We use a meta-analysis of a small number of available studies to evaluate whether the different conservation strategies employed are better suited toward increasing population fitness across multiple generations. We found weakly increasing adaptation over time for transgenerational plasticity, genetic rescue, and evolutionary rescue. Demographic rescue was generally maladaptive, both immediately after conservation intervention and after several generations. Interspecific hybridization was adaptive only in the F1 generation, but then rapidly lead to maladaptation. Management decisions that are made to support the process of adaptation must adequately account for (mal)adaptation as a potential outcome and even as a tool to bolster adaptive capacity to changing conditions.

Usage Notes