Towards a more precise - and accurate - view of eco-evolution

Ecol Lett. 2021 Apr;24(4):623-625. doi: 10.1111/ele.13712. Epub 2021 Feb 22.


Over the past 15 years, the number of papers focused on 'eco-evo dynamics' has increased exponentially (Figure 1). This pattern suggests the rapid growth of a new, integrative discipline. We argue this overstates the case. First, the terms 'eco-evo dynamics' and 'eco-evo interactions' are used too imprecisely. As a result, many studies that claim to describe eco-evo dynamics are actually describing basic ecological or evolutionary processes. Second, these terms are often used as if the study of how ecological and evolutionary processes are intertwined is novel when, in fact, it is not. The result is confusion over what the term 'eco-evolution' and its derivatives describe. We advocate a more precise definition of eco-evolution that is more useful in efforts to understand and characterise the diversity of ecological and evolutionary processes and that focuses attention on the subset of those processes that occur only when ecological and evolutionary timescales are comparable. [Figure: see text].

Keywords: eco-evolutionary dynamics; eco-evolutionary feedbacks; ecological genetics; rapid evolution.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Population Dynamics