The complex effects of global climate change on freshwater ecosystems limit our ability to predict biological responses in a standard way and may compromise ecosystem management with respect to potential changes. I present a theoretical framework that shows the usefulness of resurrection ecology for standardizing cross-system comparisons of ecological responses to global climate change. Resurrection ecology makes use of plant seed and animal resting-egg (propagule) banks that integrate past environmental histories in the gene pools of their organisms. Resurrected organisms that have undergone different periods of dormancy can be studied comparatively using evolutionary/genetic and experimental approaches. Both approaches combined can provide insights into how the dimensions of species' ecological niches have shifted over time and could help reveal whether direct effects of climate change (increased temperatures and CO2 concentrations and hydrological alterations) or other anthropogenic stressors (e.g., contamination, landuse change) have caused microevolution. Insights gained from resurrection ecology could be used to manage gene flow between populations and to help prevent extinctions of threatened populations. These insights could be used to help manage ecosystem structure and function and maintain ecological sustainability. However, our ability to apply results from resurrection ecology to organisms that do not have long-term dormancy stages in their life cycles may be limited, and the usefulness of resurrection ecology will have to be evaluated along gradients of hydroperiod and flood frequency, which may determine rates of microevolution in aquatic ecosystems.
Journal of the North American Benthological Society
Vol. 26 • No. 1
Vol. 26 • No. 1
seed and resting egg banks