Saturday, September 23, 2017

Why Does the World Need IPBES?

by Kai Chan
IPBES (the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) is operating on a shoestring budget to provide a critical service to humanity. But the funding will need to be renewed in 2020 and there is great uncertainty regarding the commitments nations will make given the current geopolitical context. So it’s worth pondering, why—after all—does the world need IPBES?
The usual argument against IPBES being an essential global institution is that problems of nature and its benefits to people (biodiversity and ecosystem services) are local or regional problems, unlike climate change. Without global dynamics, goes this argument, there’s no need for a global institution.
But problems of nature are global problems, in three key ways.
Male peacock spider: not only vertebrates are cool (Wiki).
Check out this amazing video of a courtship dance.
First, our responsibility for nature is global. Our grandchildren will thank us for saving wildlife and wild spaces wherever they occur. Correspondingly, if we fail to prioritize this, they will surely blame us for it, whether the extinguished flora and fauna are tropical rainforests, Arctic tundra, coral reefs, peacock spiders, tigers or emperor penguins—regardless of whether these wonders fall within our national borders.
Second, what happens elsewhere affects us here. ‘Telecoupling’ is real: when Indonesian forest fires associated with industrial agriculture choked much of Equitorial Asia with smoke and smog, over 100,000 people likely died prematurely in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia (NYTimes, ERL). 
Smoke from Indonesian forest fires, courtesy of NASA
 When expanding deserts in China—due to overgrazing, ‘bad cultivation’ and deforestation—allowed winds to pick up thousands of tons of fine sediment, people halfway across the world experienced yellow dust. This dust, which has been found in New Zealand and the French Alps, is estimated to cost Korea and Japan billions of dollars each year (Conversation). And the ongoing improper handling of plastics in many nations has resulted in a massive gyre of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean and our seafood being laced with plastic nodules—such that seafood eaters are likely consuming many thousands of pieces every year (Telegraph, Scientific Reports). Similarly, industrial processes have resulted in high levels of mercury, PCBs, and dioxins in many fish species, especially predators like swordfish, salmon, tuna, and mackerel. All that is just a handful of the ways that what happens far away matters locally.
Ocean plastics in Hawai'i (NOAA)
Third, what we do here drives what happens there. Have you eaten a candy bar recently? Some other processed food (much of which contains palm oil, whose production fuels the aforementioned land-use change and fires in Indonesia)? Then you’re complicit in the Indonesian fires. Do you eat imported meat and rice? If so, you’re partly responsible for the dust storms from Asia, as global markets spread our demand across distant sites of production. Do you use plastic products or anything with plastic production? Then you, like me, are complicit in the mass plasticization of the oceans.
Nature problems are global problems, so we need a concerted global effort to synthesize and advance the understanding of these problems—and their ultimate causes. By doing this, IPBES can enable appropriate responses among governments, NGOs, and the private sector. And when responses aren’t appropriate, this rigorously synthesized global information will enable other actors to hold their feet to the fire. Governments: keep funding IPBES. In fact, double your contribution, or more.

IPBES (pronounced Ip-bes)--Isn't that Apple's new
electronic pez dispenser? (Joke; Wiki)
Readers: if you see the benefits of IPBES given the global nature of these problems, please like and share this page with the #fundIPBES hashtag. As a coordinating lead author of IPBES's Global Assessment, I will using your support to work with IPBES authors to convey the public support for continued and enhanced funding for IPBES to governments around the world.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Do wild salmon subsidize the aquaculture industry in BC?

AdultLepeophtheirus salmonis infesting juvenile pink salmon, Oncorhynchus gorbuscha.If these little guys don't survive, the sea lice on farms could evolve resistance faster.(photo: Alexandra Morton)
In our recent paper, just out in Conservation Letters, we make a case that wild salmon in the North Pacific might be effectively subsidizing pest control costs for the salmon aquaculture industry along the BC coast. How would wild salmon make a difference for pest control on farms? Usually we hear about the negative effects that farms have on wild salmon, but not about interactions in the other direction. This story has to do with the evolutionary dynamics of sea lice, small parasites that live on both farmed and wild salmon.

The idea for this paper started from a conversation with John Driscoll, my fellow PhD student in the lab. Because I have a bit of background in evolutionary biology, he was trying to get me to work on an idea he had. Basically, John said, BC is the only major salmon aquaculture region where sea lice had not evolved resistance to the chemical parasiticides used on fish farms to control them. BC is also the only place that still has large wild salmon populations compared to other major salmon farming regions where wild salmon either never existed, or have been nearly fished out. John's idea was that these two facts were connected: sea lice living on wild salmon comprise a susceptible pool which periodically mixes with populations of lice on farms (mature wild salmon migrating past net pens on their way back to their breeding rivers). The dilution of alleles under intense selection for resistance (on the farms) with alleles that aren't (from the oceanic pool) would change the predictions for the spread and fixation of the resistance genotype in the population as a whole, reducing the level of resistance on farms. Could this be the reason that farms in BC hadn't had problems with sea lice resistance?

We decided to reach out to Marty Krkosek's group, who are experts in quantitative ecology of sea lice and salmon in BC, to scope out the idea. It turned out that John wasn't the only person who had though about this. A current post-doc in the group, Andrew Bateman, and a former MSc student in Mark Lewis's group, Jaime Ashander, had worked on the same idea, and Jaime had already developed a genetic/demographic model for the mixing farmed and wild sea lice that showed the delay or preclusion of resistance evolution under various conditions. In addition to Jaime's model, there were a couple other models already published that also looked at the mixing of alleles between wild and domesticated sea lice but had not made connections to the ecosystem services and management implications of these evolutionary dynamics.

Life history of sea lice and salmon: when wild adult salmon migrate past salmon farms in late summer or fall they bring immigrant homozygous susceptible lice (blue) to farms. In winter, the farm population of lice is isolated and subjected to selection for EB resistant sea lice (orange). Migrating wild juveniles move past farms in spring, receiving sea lice infection from farms that cause wild salmon population declines, indicated by juveniles with an X.
After one editorial rejection at another journal and several iterations for Conservation Letters, the paper that came out of this collaboration is an interesting hybrid. It's a combination of a review of previous theoretical work, original modelling by Jaime, and global observational data on wild salmon populations and the occurrence of resistance. We end with conservation-focused implications for both wild salmon and sea lice management through an ecosystem services lens (though we stopped short of actually evaluating the dollar value saved by the aquaculture industry in BC - after a valiant effort).

If this process of seasonal allele mixing between wild and domesticated populations of sea lice is in fact happening, it is a case where the salmon aquaculture industry is both the direct beneficiary of, and a direct source of impact on, the resistance-mitigation service provided by wild salmon. The impacts of aquaculture on nearby wild salmon populations are well documented. In part, these impacts are due to the infection of young wild salmon fry that are heading out to sea with farm-origin sea lice at a life stage that they would not normally be exposed to them, causing higher morbidity and mortality than the normal situation where adult salmon are exposed to parasites out in the open ocean (see photo). By causing the population decline or local extinctions of connective salmon populations, aquaculture operations are not only causing harm to an important natural resource, they could also be cutting themselves off from the oceanic pool of susceptible sea lice that allow them to remain resistance-free. In the paper, we suggest several measures that would maintain this service, including reducing the infection rate of young wild salmon from farm-origin sea lice by correctly timing paraciticide treatments. Another idea is a payments for ecosystem services scheme that supports watershed protection/restoration around vulnerable populations. This sort of program could help reverse the decline of wild salmon populations near salmon farms, thereby serving a conservation purpose and benefiting the aquaculture industry at the same time.

This paper is the first well-theorized example of evolution generating an ecosystem service, in this case, resistance mitigation. This evosystem service involving wild salmon and their sea lice pests offers a pretty juicy counter-narrative to the conflict-ridden relationship between aquaculture and wild catch industries, maybe providing additional motivation for cross-scale conservation and management efforts. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Publication Milestone … and a Puzzle to Mind

By Kai Chan

A couple weeks ago, my 100th paper or chapter was published in the peer-reviewed literature. Why do I feel so contorted?
Kai, contorted, right from the beginning
of my time at UBC (and not always
happy about it!).

The short answer is that this milestone provoked a realization that I’m getting sucked in to a pursuit about which I am deeply ambivalent.
On the one hand, I believe strongly in the value of peer-reviewed publications as a means of fostering crucial learning towards a deeper and broader understanding of life on Earth and how we can sustain it along with human prosperity. When I’m interviewing prospective students to ensure a good fit between us, we talk about the purpose of academic publications. It’s certainly not a perfect system, but I know of no better way to contribute rigorously and reliably to the body of knowledge upon which human society fundamentally depends. If we’re doing research and scholarship that addresses important problems, we should do it with reference to what others have found—acknowledging explicitly how our research builds upon many important contributions from others. It seems fitting and important, then, to also contribute our learning back to that body of literature.
In those same conversations with prospective students, we also discuss the pitfalls of publication-motivated research. It’s a classic case of Goodhart’s Law, where the metrics of academic publishing (the h-index, i-index, impact factors, etc.) have become the targets of an academic career, thus somewhat perverting their utility. These metrics certainly capture some elements of excellence and of scholarship’s contribution to society’s needs. For instance, I’m proud of the role some of my best-cited papers with Terre Satterfield and others (e.g., this one) have played in helping enrich the dialog about culture and values regarding ecosystem services and the environment. But other papers of mine seem to get cited well despite much smaller roles in effecting change.
So success by metrics is not the success I seek. There are plenty of ways to pervert these proxies of academic contribution, for example by realizing success through the h-index, etc., but not achieving true success in advancing and disseminating needed knowledge. There are also endeavours that contribute crucially to society’s knowledge and use of this knowledge, but that yield little progress by these metrics. Much science engagement (public and policy outreach) goes unrecognized that way—more on that to come in future posts.
Those conversations with prospective students usually conclude with an asserted interest in publishing but also in guarding against Goodhart’s Law. My students and I are all committed to a reflective pursuit of academic success that also includes those activities that are important but not necessarily rewarded academically (e.g., engaging with policy makers, writing policy briefs and op-eds, joining environmental and social justice advocacy groups).
After more than a dozen papers published already this year, it seems pretty clear that I’m spending a lot of my time publishing and not nearly enough on my other sustainability-science passions, including CoSphere (a Community of Small-Planet Heroes …, to make it easy to have net-positive impacts on nature).
In my defence, this distribution of time is not a result of my making decisions in a vacuum to write papers and more papers. Every paper and chapter this year except one was led by others, generally my students and postdocs, who need these papers as markers of their excellence. Even the paper and chapter that I did lead were in close partnership with my students and postdocs, and I hope they will serve them well (both are also intended to advance CoSphere). But regardless of how I got to this point, it remains the case that I am spending so much time on the papers themselves that I have little time for CoSphere, or those other engagement activities.
I suspect I’m not the only one feeling this way. From our recent Global Young Academy survey (just submitted) and various conversations, I know that many of us are strongly motivated to ‘better the world’ through our science and engagement. But it seems that despite that motivation, a litany of invisible or barely visible norms and pressures are thwarting these good intentions—at least somewhat—and leading me and my colleagues to spend more time than we might easily justify on the pursuit of metrics of personal acclaim. (It’s clearly different for those seeking to get academic jobs or tenure, who have to play by the rules of the game—but as a full professor, that justification doesn’t apply to me.)
I don’t have any magic solutions, but for myself, I’m going to seek to right my course somewhat by diving into a highly practical applied sabbatical in 2018-9, perhaps in the seat of Canada’s national government.
How about you? Do you feel any unease about your relationship with publishing? Or not? Have you managed to align your passions with your actions? If so, please share your insights—for our sakes!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Feral: a book review

My buddy Gwyn's copy of the book.

[...] I had banished my ecological boredom. The wold had become alive with meaning, alive with possibility. The trees now bore the marks of elephants; their survival in the gorge prefigured the return of wolves. [...] the depleted land and sea were now gravid with promise. For the first time in years, I felt that I belonged in the world. 

Warning: You might hate sheep by the end of this book.

A year and a half ago I reviewed J.B. MacKinnon's book The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be. This is its more dangerous, passionate twin. Published in the same year (2013) the two books, were they scientific papers, would have been bitter competitors; as it is their authors give each other flattering blurbs. They both examine how humans have steadily subdued the Earth into fewer dimensions, reducing its natural state of nearly unimaginable abundance to a toy version where we seldom even recognize what we've lost because of quickly shifting baselines. MacKinnon and and Monbiot both use many of the same references, mining deep history for stunning examples of environmental change and shifting baselines. They both show us the hope of regeneration, not through intensive management with prescribed end-goals, but through the concept of rewilding: the restoration of a few key ecological interactions that then do the work of transformation with little or no human intervention.

Monbiot's approach is more anthropological and more personal than MacKinnon's, and that's why to me this is the better book. He spends more time exploring the idea of the inner rewilding of people themselves - and in particular of his own self. The book is punctuated by his increasingly ill-advised expeditions in his kayak out from Cardigan Bay, near his home in Wales, as he attempts to hook, harpoon, and bodily wrestle sea creatures with indifferent skill but increasingly apparent enthusiasm through the soaking rain and stiffening winds. These missions - in a denuded, poor piece ocean on the tame Welsh shoreline - nonetheless bring him (and us) into contact with a bit of danger, a bit of rawness. I think this is the feeling Monbiot wants us to get - the feeling of primal energy that despite being soaked and cold, you are holding a trident and trying to kill something which you will eat, raw, on the shore not long after. He wants to trigger a genetic memory in himself and his readers of what it might feel like to take part in an ecological world with all its complexity and interacting parts. This is what he means by being released from ecological boredom (a great phrase). Of course Monbiot offers the usual caveats: he acknowledges that life is better now than it ever has been, less violent, longer, cleaner, etc. He knows that the primal violence of a wild life often involves trampling the freedom of others, and he doesn't defend that. But he wants us to remember the feeling - perhaps a feeling most of us have never felt.

Though Monbiot brings examples from all over history and the world, I especially enjoyed the time he spends on his home country of Wales and Britain. It's in these parts where we get to enjoy his biting wit as he roasts local politicians and conservation agencies for their counterproductive efforts. In contrast to Europe, where people are in part embracing the reforestation of formerly agricultural land and the return of wolves, bears, and other creatures, Britain, Monbiot argues, is the most zoophobic country on Earth. They have no more predators and they would like to keep it that way, thanks very much. This absence has had disastrous results for everything else as unchecked deer (game for rich absentee landlords) and sheep farming (unprofitable but heavily subsidized) graze woodland and pasture to the roots, preventing regeneration. These sheep- and deer- scoured uplands of Scotland, England and Wales, which used to be covered by rainforests but now resemble blasted moonscapes, are themselves the objects of "environmental" protection (!). The tiny bits of forest that are left are dying of old age because no new tree can survive the grazing. Yet, governments and nature agencies claim that this grazing is critical for the conservation management of the desired upland environment. Monbiot dismantles this circular logic with thorough and devastating effect. I will never see the iconic treeless rolling hills and cliffs of Britain the same way again. 

This book is really good at showing how rewilding and human thriving aren't necessarily at odds. The poisonous trope in environmentalism that people are cancerous growths on the planet dovetails very eerily with horrific political ideologies that have asserted similar things, usually about specific types of people, whereupon they are removed or murdered. In the end, Monbiot's greatest triumph isn't his command of science, his rich historical research, or his sharp writing (though they're all on point), it's his tenderness towards the people that he encounters on the land. As environmentalists, feeling and enacting that tenderness is the only way we can hope to justly live in a wilder and better world.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

What have you done for me lately? Rapid evolution and the provision of ecosystem services
By: Seth Rudman and Maayan Kreitzman
cross-posted from the eco-evolutionary dynamics blog

Be honest now. How often does a cross-building collaboration between two grad students get launched? Our paper, now available on early view in TREE, is the result of a couple PhD students from different departments at UBC learning through the grapevine that they were thinking about the same idea: recent evolutionary processes that lead to ecosystem services. Seth (Zoology) already had a manuscript when Maayan (Resources, Environment, and Sustainability) heard about him through a mutual friend and they joined forces. We both had a remarkably similar take on the idea that rapid evolution could generate not just costs, but also services that benefit people. Though writing a paper that’s accessible for both conservation scientists and evolutionary biologists was a bit challenging, we had good representation of the two ‘sides’ between the two of us (as well as Kai and Dolph) so the battles were balanced and we ended up understanding more about each other’s disciplinary quirks and anxieties: Maayan now knows the fine differences between evolutionary and genetic rescue; Seth knows never to conflate ecosystem service supply with benefit. After 15 months of deciding on examples, wrangling terms, and creating and destroying framing categories, the paper is done, and it’s pretty much what we had in mind: an ‘idea’ piece squarely aimed at both conservation scientists and evolutionary ecologists exploring how sometimes rapidly evolving species can benefit people.

Figure 2. The authors benefitting from eco- and evo-system services. Clockwise from top left: Seth Rudman holding a beautiful and delicious Lake Michigan Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush), the abundance of which may have been buoyed by character displacement between alewife and bloater chub. Maayan Kreitzman picking an apple that was probably not too badly infested with the Apple Maggot (Rhagoletis pommonella) due to the cascading speciation of R. pomonella predators. Dolph Schluter clearly enjoying the sense of place imparted by getting close to squirrel monkeys on the Amazon River near Leticia, Colombia. Kai Chan glowing from the cultural and social cohesion generated with his daughter while kayaking on Campbell Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario.

Eco-evolutionary dynamics and people
Rapid evolution can alter ecological process, but how best to quantify this alteration?  Previous work has used measures of the effect size of intraspecific variation on the abundances of interacting species, metrics of community composition, and measures of ecosystem functions (a fantastic early example is [1]).  Yet, as biologists who are keenly aware of the goods and services that nature provides for human health and well-being, perhaps measuring or calculating the contribution of rapid evolution to ecosystem services is more informative in some cases.  The ecosystem services concept links the functioning of ecosystems and the material or nonmaterial benefits that humans derive from them. (As such, ecosystem services is an unabashedly anthropocentric concept - though not necessarily an exclusively materialistic one. So when we talk about benefits and costs, we’re doing so in the ecosystem services context, ie from a human perspective, not from the perspective of other species.) By assessing the way that rapid evolutionary change alters ecosystem services we could focus our efforts on measuring how evolution alters the components of communities and ecosystems we humans rely upon the most, thereby translating the importance of rapid evolution into units often used for conservation and management decisions.  In our TREE paper (freshly available on early view [2]), we hope to provide a foundation for such work by providing a framework for rapid evolution and ecosystem services, and describing some promising examples.

We have long known that rapid evolution can cause powerful negative impacts: antibiotic resistance and pesticide resistance are two classic areas of applied evolutionary biology.  However, there have not been attempts to document when rapid evolution might enhance ecosystem services.   To this end, we define the term contemporary evosystem services as “the maintenance or increase of an ecosystem service resulting from evolution occurring quickly enough to alter ecological processes”.  This term, and our opinion manuscript as a whole, owes quite a bit to previous work on evosystem services [3,4], which first recognized the role that evolution can play in ecosystem services.  

A history of the term ‘evosystem services’
This previous work, while it recognized the potentially beneficial role of rapid evolution, had a different focus and orientation: the aim of Faith et al. 2010 and Hendry et al. 2010 was to use the increasingly popular language of ecosystem services to draw attention to the importance of preserving biodiversity. In our initial submission we roundly criticized this term as being too meta-scale to be informative and we considered repurposing the term evosystem services to refer only to the contemporary contribution of evolution to ecosystem services. We came to our sense when we paid greater attention to the history of the term.  In part, this was due to the interesting history Andrew Hendry shared with us  on his review for TREE of our second submission (reproduced with permission and a few small tweaks by Hendry, emphasis ours):

A brief history of the term evosystem services might be interesting to the authors, reviewers, and editor. I am not saying this history needs to be added to the paper. The idea came from concerns among evolutionary biologists involved in international biodiversity NGOs (DIVERSITAS, FUTURE EARTH, IPBES) that the justification of biodiversity conservation by reference to ecosystem services (the major trend in such NGOs) ran the risk of preserving only the few perceived "useful" components of biodiversity, rather than biodiversity per se. A group of us (including Faith) involved in these NGOs were concerned that evolutionary components
of biodiversity were no longer of primary conservation concern, nor was rapid evolution being considered. Over discussions, we realized that ecosystem services were, in reality, a good justification for considering evolution per se once one recognized that ecosystem services were the product of evolution in the past, present, and future. Hence, the Faith definition as quoted in this MS was originally intended specifically to make evosystem services synonymous with ecosystem services - to make clear the importance of studying evolutionary diversity even when interested in ecosystem services. Thus, the original intent of the term was exactly that which authors of the present MS criticize - that it is all inclusive and, as the authors argue, therefore unhelpful). Personally, I am fine with the authors’ redefinition of the term to focus on contemporary evolution with ecological impacts (rapid evolution) on ecosystem services, but I think they should at least be aware that the original all-inclusiveness of the term was intentional a strategic attempt to increase attention paid to evolutionary patterns and processes when using ecosystem services as justification for biodiversity conservation. It might be valuable for the authors to at least point out that they are not questioning the importance of past evolution for ecosystem services - and that this link is an important point to recognize in biodiversity science (cite Faith). It is just that the present MS is focusing on the contemporary "rapid" aspect of this idea.

As we can see, the term evosystem services was originally meant to stress the inclusion of thinking about evolutionary diversity in conservation circles, and to mitigate against the idea that all of nature is appropriate fodder for tinkering and management, which the ecosystem services concept might seem to encourage. As stated above, Faith and Hendry et al. were arguing that all ecosystem services are evosystem services because past, present, and future evolution is at the root of all possible ecosystem services. While this is undoubtedly true, our critique of this approach is that it so general that is ends up being more rhetorical than operational: rather than providing an avenue to study and measure how evolution might affect specific ecosystem services, it simply gives evolution “credit” for all ecosystem services in hopes of (legitimately, in our opinion) highlighting the overall importance of diversity within the politics of international conservation. As Hendry mentions, an earlier draft of our paper proposed to redefine the term evosystem services, which we decided not to do in the end. Instead, we developed the framework in figure 1, which situates the contributions of different evolutionary processes to ecosystem services. This framework accepts Faith’s very inclusive definition of evosystem services (green), but also hones in on the nested subset of them that we believe to be the most operational and measurable (dotted line): those that are happening contemporarily on rapid timescales through the processes of local adaptation, gene flow and in one instance, speciation. We named these contemporary evosystem services.  

Figure 1: The nested and overlapping processes that produce evosystem services.

There’s no conceptual conflict between the inclusive definition of evosystem services, as forwarded by Faith and Hendry, and our definition of contemporary evosystem services as a nested subset within that. But, there is perhaps a legitimate tension in the values encoded by these two terms - which has resulted in some debate and even misunderstanding as we’ve attempted to get this work published. The group that Hendry refers to was concerned that conservation science and policy was heading in a direction that put too much value on particular services that might be provided by low-diversity or otherwise artificial types of systems (for example carbon sequestration using fast-growing alien species) at the expense of a more traditional conservation approach based on the preservation of biodiversity and the intrinsic value of nature. We on the other hand wanted to lay the foundation to study particular cases where a specific evolutionary processes might be providing specific ecosystem service in order to better understand and manage those systems. Therefore, it might be fair to characterize the two approaches as supportive of macro-management vs micromanagement. The thing is, we think both are important. We are far from presuming that it’s possible or even desireable to micromanage all the places where rapid evolution is occurring in order to maximize units of service. But neither do we think that general insight about the potential value of biodiversity over the long term can replace system specific knowledge in management scenarios. There is a middle ground between the arrogant micromanaging of nature, and the too-general assertion that diversity is a good thing to conserve.

Why study contemporary evosystem services
We believe that studies exploring this rich middle ground in an evolutionary context by looking for a positive relationship between rapid evolution and ecosystem services are lacking, not because such cases don’t exist, but perhaps  because there hasn’t been a conceptual or quantitative framework in which to place them. In our paper, we therefore suggest a framework for assessing the contribution of rapid evolution to ecosystem services and provide a number of putative examples where rapid evolution might enhance ecosystem services. Although there are no iron-clad examples of contemporary evosystem services we outline some of the most promising potential examples.  We grouped these examples by the evolutionary process, namely directional selection and gene flow, that might maintain or enhance the ecosystem services. It’s important to note that these evolutionary mechanisms can function to either enhance or deplete ecosystem services, depending on the context. Our paper highlights potential benefits from an anthropocentric perspective because we felt that this emphasis was lacking in the applied evolution and conservation literature so far.

One of the most compelling potential examples of how rapid evolution might provide an ecosystem service comes from the literature on the rapid evolution by directional selection of Daphnia.  Some Daphnia species can evolve rapidly to grow faster when feeding on toxin-containing cyanobacteria [5–8].  This rapid evolution likely increases the total amount of cyanobacteria consumed, potentially reducing the intensity and duration of harmful algal blooms (HABs) associated with eutrophication.  Future work assessing the contribution of rapid evolution of Daphnia to the reduction of phytoplankton species that cause HABs could yield an idea of the value, in ecosystem service units (often dollars), of rapid evolution in Daphnia.

Gene flow could also provide contemporary evosystem services.  For example, several recent models [9,10] suggest that sufficient influx of susceptible genes from oceanic sea lice to salmon aquaculture net-pens delays or prevents the evolution of insecticide resistance on farms. The observation that insecticide-resistant sea lice are absent from salmon aquaculture located in the North Pacific (where large populations of wild salmon exist) compared to the prevalence of insecticide resistance in the South Pacific and Atlantic (where there are small or no wild salmon populations) seems to support this.  Other examples of putative contemporary evosystem services from gene flow are 1) cases of genetic rescue, when migration from another population provides an influx of genes that restores positive population growth to a population that would otherwise perish from inbreeding depression, and 2) mitigation of fishery size selection through gene flow from a marine protected area.

Environmental change necessitates that evolutionary biology and conservation be integrated and tremendous progress has been made in the past decade.  Our opinion is that measuring and understanding contemporary evosystem services could further contribute to this integration. Our end-goal is to spur research that comprehensively assesses how evolution alters ecosystem services (e.g. the services and the dis-services from rapid evolution), which we feel will yield an improved understanding of ecosystem services today and in the future.