Community rescue in experimental phytoplankton communities facing severe herbicide pollution.

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Vincent FugèreAndrew Gonzalez


Evolutionary rescue occurs when adaptation prevents local extinction in deteriorating environments. Laboratory experiments with microorganisms have shown that the likelihood of evolutionary rescue is greatest in large populations that have previously experienced sublethal doses of stress. To assess this result in natural communities, we conducted a mesocosm experiment with semi-natural phytoplankton communities exposed to glyphosate, a widely used herbicide. We tested whether community biomass and pre-exposure to sublethal stress would facilitate community rescue after severe contamination. Exposure to sublethal stress, but not community biomass, facilitated rescue significantly; even though it led to biodiversity loss. Furthermore, glyphosate had modest effects on community composition, suggesting that community resistance to glyphosate was primarily driven by changes in resistance within taxa, not by community turnover. Our results expand the scope of community evolutionary rescue theory to complex ecosystems and confirm that prior stress exposure is a key predictor of rescue.

Related Concepts

General Adaptation Syndrome
Research Study
Resistance Process

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