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Trends Ecol Evol. 2017 Mar;32(3):167-173. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2016.12.007. Epub 2017 Jan 23.

Who Should Pick the Winners of Climate Change?

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Coral Reef Alliance, 1330 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612, USA. Electronic address:
Coral Reef Alliance, 1330 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612, USA.
Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY 10460, USA.
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, 104 Nash Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, Rutgers University, 14 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, 10th and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20560, USA.
School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Box 355020, Seattle, WA 98125, USA.


Many conservation strategies identify a narrow subset of genotypes, species, or geographic locations that are predicted to be favored under different scenarios of future climate change. However, a focus on predicted winners, which might not prove to be correct, risks undervaluing the balance of biological diversity from which climate-change winners could otherwise emerge. Drawing on ecology, evolutionary biology, and portfolio theory, we propose a conservation approach designed to promote adaptation that is less dependent on uncertain predictions about the identity of winners and losers. By designing actions to facilitate numerous opportunities for selection across biological and environmental conditions, we can allow nature to pick the winners and increase the probability that ecosystems continue to provide services to humans and other species.

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