Rapid evolution accelerates plant population spread in fragmented experimental landscapes.
Predicting the speed of biological invasions and native species migrations requires an understanding of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of spreading populations. Theory predicts that evolution can accelerate species' spread velocity, but how landscape patchiness-an important control over traits under selection-influences this process is unknown. We manipulated the response to selection in populations of a model plant species spreading through replicated experimental landscapes of varying patchiness. After six generations of change, evolving populations spread 11% farther than nonevolving populations in continuously favorable landscapes and 200% farther in the most fragmented landscapes. The greater effect of evolution on spread in patchier landscapes was consistent with the evolution of dispersal and competitive ability. Accounting for evolutionary change may be critical when predicting the velocity of range expansions.