Send to

Choose Destination
Evol Appl. 2011 Mar;4(2):159-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2010.00165.x.

Evolutionary principles and their practical application.

Author information

Redpath Museum and Department of Biology, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada.
School of Biology and Ecology, University of Maine Orono, ME, USA.
Department of Biology, University of Bergen Bergen, Norway ; International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis Laxenburg, Austria ; Institute of Marine Research Bergen, Norway.
Departments of Mathematics and Statistics and Biology, Queen's University Kingston, ON, Canada.
Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, CA, USA ; Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, CA, USA.
CSIRO Entomology and Cotton Catchment Communities CRC, Long Pocket Laboratories Indooroopilly, Qld, Australia.
Department of Biology, University of Washington Seattle, WA, USA.
CSIRO Entomology, Black Mountain Canberra, ACT, Australia.
Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen Copenhagen, Denmark.
School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland Brisbane, Qld, Australia.
Division of Environmental Biology, National Science Foundation Arlington, VA, USA.
CSIRO Plant Industry Canberra, ACT, Australia.
Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis, CA, USA.
Section of Evolution and Ecology, University of California Davis, CA, USA.
Ecology Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota Saint Paul, MN, USA.
Institute for Contemporary Evolution Davis, CA, USA ; Department of Entomology, University of California Davis, CA, USA.


Evolutionary principles are now routinely incorporated into medicine and agriculture. Examples include the design of treatments that slow the evolution of resistance by weeds, pests, and pathogens, and the design of breeding programs that maximize crop yield or quality. Evolutionary principles are also increasingly incorporated into conservation biology, natural resource management, and environmental science. Examples include the protection of small and isolated populations from inbreeding depression, the identification of key traits involved in adaptation to climate change, the design of harvesting regimes that minimize unwanted life-history evolution, and the setting of conservation priorities based on populations, species, or communities that harbor the greatest evolutionary diversity and potential. The adoption of evolutionary principles has proceeded somewhat independently in these different fields, even though the underlying fundamental concepts are the same. We explore these fundamental concepts under four main themes: variation, selection, connectivity, and eco-evolutionary dynamics. Within each theme, we present several key evolutionary principles and illustrate their use in addressing applied problems. We hope that the resulting primer of evolutionary concepts and their practical utility helps to advance a unified multidisciplinary field of applied evolutionary biology.


adaptation; agriculture; climate change; conservation biology; contemporary evolution; evolutionary medicine; fisheries management; forest management

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center