François Lefevre


Adaptation: where functional ecology and evolutionary biology meet.


Adaptation is a polysemous word, sometimes referring to a fixed state (adaptedness), or to a dynamic process, or to anthropic activities. It has become a major focus in ecology, and it is also a concept that bridges across disciplines. In particular, ecophysiology and genetics develop different and complementary looks at the living, focusing on the mechanisms and the variations, respectively. During the last decades, these disciplines have developed stronger interactions, going over previous competition for leadership in ecology, and the research community on Mediterranean pines was not late in this promising direction. This form of interdisciplinarity between proximate disciplines has also its own complexity (e.g. similar terms may be used for quite different concepts), and it requires good mutual understanding. Based on examples mostly taken from the recent literature on Mediterranean pines, I will review the promising directions and future challenges for interactions between ecophysiologists and geneticists as regard adaptation issues. For example, the research on phenotypic plasticity and its role in adaptation is a good illustration of how both disciplines can collaborate after managing to harmonize their vocabulary. In the fields of modelling and development of scenarios of the response to global change, the challenge will be to integrate processes that operate at different scales and determine their interactive effects. Tools are becoming available. Concerning the research on the finest mechanisms, the respective graals of « key traits » and « key genes » may not necessarily coincide one with the other, and clarification is still needed on what should be the joint targets of both disciplines in this area.

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