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Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment


Department of Biological Sciences


Recent advances in understanding the often rapid pace of evolution are reshaping our view of organisms and their capacity to cope with environmental change. Though evolutionary perspectives have gained traction in many fields of conservation, road ecology is not among them. This is surprising because roads are pervasive landscape features that generate intense natural selection. The biological outcomes from these selection pressures – whether adaptive or maladaptive – can have profound consequences for population persistence. We argue that studying evolutionary responses is critical to accurately understand the impacts of roads. Toward that end, we describe the basic tenets and relevance of contemporary evolution and showcase the few examples where it has been documented in road ecology. We outline practical ways that road ecologists can estimate and interpret evolutionary responses in their research. Finally, we suggest priority research topics and discuss how evolutionary insights can inform conservation in landscapes traversed by roads.