The causal efficacy of conservation actions for preserving the short-term evolvability of wild popluations

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Publication Type thesis
School or College College of Humanities
Department Philosophy
Author Figueroa, Richard
Title The causal efficacy of conservation actions for preserving the short-term evolvability of wild popluations
Date 2017
Description Conservation biology has prioritized the conservation of genetic variation within wild populations as the principal conservation action for preserving their short-term evolvability through rapid environmental change. The amount of heritable variation, i.e., variation due to genetic factors, within populations is often regarded as the most important causal factor in the production of evolutionary change through natural selection, as well as the only causal factor that can be intervened on through conservation action in any significant or predictable way. However, I argue that the conservation of genetic variation should be expected to have rather low causal efficacy for preserving the short-term evolvability of wild populations. Specifically, I argue that the strategy for action, namely, the maximization of heritable variation, leading to that intervention faces serious theoretical, epistemic, and operational challenges due to our uncertainty about the future environments wild populations will encounter and our lack of knowledge about the precise genetic basis of traits expected to be under selection in the future. As a result, the specific intervention the strategy recommends-namely, the conservation of standing genetic variation-has at best an indirect and only weakly correlative connection to the causal factors involved in the production of evolutionary change through natural selection. Furthermore, I argue that an alternative intervention-namely, the conservation of standing phenotypic variation-should be expected to have comparably greater causal efficacy for preserving short-term evolvability. Specifically, this intervention serves to maximize the effect of selection, while avoiding the challenges facing the maximization of heritable variation. As a result, the connection between the conservation of standing phenotypic variation and the causal factors involved in the production of evolutionary change through natural selection is much more direct and strongly correlative than the comparable connection between the conservation of standing genetic variation and the same causal factors.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Philosophy of Science; Conservation biology; Evolution and Development
Dissertation Name Master of Science
Language eng
Rights Management (c) Richard Figueroa
Format Medium application/pdf
ARK ark:/87278/s6jb0n8c
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2019-04-26
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 1423221
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6jb0n8c
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