Magnoli, S. M. 2020. Rapid adaptation (or not) in restored plant populations. Evolutionary Applications 13:2030-2037.
Mismatches between the traits of a colonizing population and a novel habitat can generate strong selection, potentially resulting in rapid adaptation. However, for most colonization events, it can be difficult to detect rapid adaptation or distinguish it from nonadaptive evolutionary changes. Here, I take advantage of a replicated prairie restoration experiment to compare recently established plant populations in two closely located restored prairies to each other and to their shared source population to test for rapid adaptation. Using a reciprocal transplant experiment six years after the populations were established, I found that one restored plant population showed evidence of adaptation, outperforming the other restored population when grown at its home site. In contrast, I detected no evidence for adaptation at the other site. These findings demonstrate that while rapid adaptation can occur in colonizing plant populations, it may not be the rule. Better understanding of when adaptation may or may not occur in these contexts may help us use evolution to our advantage, potentially improving establishment of desirable species in restored habitats.
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